China Launches Resupply Ship to Tianhe Space Station

Long March 7 rocket launches with Tianzhou-2 cargo ship. (Credit: Tu Haichao)

BEIJING (CASC PR) — At 8:55 p.m. on May 29th, at China’s Wenchang Space Launch Site, the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft carrying about 6.8 metric tons of materials was launched to the Tianhe space station by the Long March-7 carrier rocket. Tianzhou-2 is carrying the daily necessities needed by astronauts , materials for conducting space science experiments, and the propellant used to refuel the space station.

The Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft is the first spacecraft launched during the construction phase of the space station project. The spacecraft is composed of a cargo compartment and a propulsion compartment. It has a launch weight of 13.5 tons and a cargo load ratio of more than 50%. It is equipped with an active docking mechanism and has the ability to complete all-phase autonomous rendezvous and docking. It can complete propellant replenishment multiple times. Tianzhou-2’s on-orbit life is not less than 12 months. It was developed by the Fifth Academy of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation Limited.

The spacecraft’s commander-in-chief Feng Yong said that during its orbiting operation, the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft will ensure the first three astronauts to enter the space station, complete a three-month residency mission, and carry out teleoperation rendezvous and forward docking supplements. Key technology verification such as test and robotic arm indexing test.

Later, the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft will be docked backwards, and the Shenzhou-12 manned spacecraft will be docked forward to the core compartment, which will complete the first configuration of the Chinese space station.

The Long March 7 carrier rocket was developed by the First Academy of China Aerospace Science and Technology Group. “The Long March 7 project was originally set up to launch a cargo spacecraft. Therefore, this mission is the first application launch for its mission, and it is of great significance.” said Meng Gang, the commander of the Long March 7.

The Long March 7 rocket adopts a “two-and-a-half-stage” configuration, with a total length of about 53 meters, a take-off weight of about 600 tons, and a carrying capacity of 13.5 tons in low-Earth orbit and 5.5 tons in sun-synchronous orbit. It is a new generation of medium-sized liquid rocket. In this mission, Long March 7 not only realized the expansion from “zero window” to “narrow window”, but also completed more than 130 technical improvements and optimizations.

In addition to the four launch missions of the space station during the orbit construction phase, the Long March 7 rocket will be launched about two times a year in the subsequent operation phase of the space station.

This was the 371st launch of the Long March series of rockets.