Home » Blog » New science lab for China’s space station poised for launch Sunday – Spaceflight Now

New science lab for China’s space station poised for launch Sunday – Spaceflight Now

EDITOR’S NOTE: The English-language reside broadcast of the Wentian module’s launch is embedded on this web page. The video feed comes from China’s CGTN tv community.

China’s heavy-lift Lengthy March 5B rocket was fueled for launch early Sunday with the second main component of the Chinese language Tiangong house station, including a brand new working compartment for the three astronauts dwelling on the orbiting analysis lab.

The Wentian lab module is buttoned up for launch on the Lengthy March 5B rocket at roughly 2:17 a.m. EDT (0617 GMT) Sunday from the Wenchang house middle on Hainan Island, China’s southernmost province.

The launch will mark the eighth flight of a Lengthy March 5 rocket, essentially the most highly effective launcher in China’s stock. Will probably be the third flight of the Lengthy March 5B configuration, which flies with out an higher stage and is tailor-made to haul heavy payloads into low Earth orbit. The Lengthy March 5B launcher’s raise functionality to low Earth orbit is round 55,000 kilos, or 25 metric tons.

The 176-foot-tall (53.7-meter) Lengthy March 5B rocket was loaded with kerosene gas for its strap-on boosters and cryogenic liquid hydrogen gas for its core stage within the last hours earlier than liftoff Sunday. The boosters and core stage can even eat super-cold liquid oxygen together with the liquid gas to energy the Lengthy March 5B off its seaside launch pad at Wenchang.

Gantry arms on the Lengthy March 5B’s 300-foot-tall (92-meter) launch pad tower will open within the last part of the countdown, clearing the best way for the heavy-lifter to take off from Wenchang and head east over the South China Sea.

A Chinese language Lengthy March 5B rocket was being fueled late Saturday for liftoff with the Wentian house station module. Credit score: CASC

Within the last seconds earlier than liftoff, sparkers will hearth beneath the Lengthy March 5B’s core stage to burn off any hydrogen gasoline that accrued throughout the countdown. Then the core stage’s twin YF-77 hydrogen-fueled engines will flash to life, adopted moments later by ignition of eight kerosene-fed YF-100 engines ignited on the rocket’s 4 strap-on boosters

The ten engines will push the Lengthy March 5B rocket into the sky with 2.4 million kilos of thrust.

The 4 boosters will minimize off and jettison about three minutes into the mission, and the core stage will eat all its propellant about eight minutes after liftoff, earlier than releasing the Wentian lab module for the remainder of the journey to the Tiangong house station.

The Wentian module encapsulated for launch contained in the Lengthy March 5B’s 67-foot-long, 17-foot-wide (20.5-by-5.2 meter) payload fairing carries a robotic arm and mounting posts to host science devices and unpressurized experiments within the vacuum of house.

There are lodging for all times science and organic analysis racks contained in the module’s pressurized quantity, and the brand new module will add an airlock to assist spacewalks exterior the Tiangong house station.

The Wentian module for China’s Tiangong house station present process pre-launch processing. Credit score: CMSE

The Wentian module, with a launch weight close to 50,000 kilos (23 metric tons), will dock with the Tianhe core module on China’s Tiangong station in low Earth orbit. Chinese language astronauts Chen Dong, Liu Yang, and Cai Xuzhe dwelling on the Tiangong complicated will monitor Wentian’s arrival, then change into the primary crew members to drift into the station’s new module.

The huge Wentian module will unfurl photo voltaic panels to a span of about 180 ft (55 meters) tip-to-tip to supply its personal electrical energy.

The launch of the Wentian science lab will add the second of three giant pressurized modules wanted to finish the preliminary building of the Tiangong station. The Tianhe core module launched on a Lengthy March 5B rocket in April 2021, and Chinese language floor groups are getting ready the Mengtian module for launch on a Lengthy March 5B rocket in October.

The Wentian module carries a small robotic arm designed for extra exact actions than the bigger arm positioned exterior the Tianhe core module. Wentian’s arm will primarily be used to switch experiments and different {hardware} exterior the station.

Wentian, which implies “quest for the heavens,” will initially dock with an axial port on the Tianhe module, a docking mechanism that was just lately cleared by the departure of a no-longer-needed Tianzhou cargo ship. Tianhe’s mechanical arm will transfer the module to its last place on the aspect of the house station’s core part.

The Mengtian module scheduled for launch later this 12 months will arrive on the Tiangong house station in the same manner. As soon as Wentian and Mengtian are of their last positions, the Chinese language station could have a particular “T” form with its three primary pressurized parts.

The crew on the complicated will stage two or three spacewalks from the Wentian module within the subsequent few months.

“The Wentian experimental cabin is principally for house life science analysis, geared up with experimental cupboards reminiscent of life ecology, biotechnology, and variable gravity science,” mentioned Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the China Manned House Company, in a press briefing final month.

Wentian’s experiments will assist analysis into genetics, growing older, organs, tissues, and cells. The variable gravity experiment rack can generate accelerations between a hundredth the pull of Earth’s gravity as much as 2g, supporting comparative research beneath completely different gravity circumstances, in line with the China Manned House Company.

The mission patch for the launch of the Wentian module reveals the lab component docked with an axial port of the Tianhe core module, earlier than it its repositioned to a side-facing port with the robotic arm. Credit score: CMSE

The design of the Lengthy March 5B rocket used to launch the Wentian module means the launcher’s core stage is anticipated to enter orbit earlier than releasing its payload.

The core levels on the earlier Lengthy March 5B missions in 2020 and 2021 re-entered the ambiance about one-to-two weeks after launch. The Lengthy March 5B’s core stage measures about 100 ft (30 meters) lengthy and has an empty mass of about 23.8 tons (21.6 metric tons), making it one of many largest and most huge human-made objects to ever re-enter the ambiance in an uncontrolled method.

An analogous uncontrolled re-entry is anticipated for the Lengthy March 5B core stage after the launch of the Wentian house station module Sunday.

After the newest Lengthy March 5B launch and re-entry final 12 months, NASA Administrator Invoice Nelson mentioned China was “failing to satisfy accountable requirements relating to their house particles.”

“Spacefaring nations should decrease the dangers to individuals and property on Earth of re-entries of house objects and maximize transparency relating to these operations,” Nelson mentioned in an announcement final 12 months.

Wang Wenbin, a spokesperson for the Chinese language International Ministry, mentioned in a press convention final 12 months that it’s “widespread apply” for higher levels of rockets to dissipate whereas re-entering the ambiance. He incorrectly referred to the Lengthy March 5B rocket physique as an higher stage, and mentioned that “most of its components will dissipate upon re-entry, making the probability of injury to aviation or floor amenities and actions extraordinarily low.”

However no different launcher on the planet leaves such a large element in orbit to fall again to Earth. Lifeless satellites and previous rocket levels recurrently re-enter the ambiance, however re-entering objects with lots of various tons are uncommon.

Bigger booster and core levels used on different rockets sometimes fall again to Earth with out reaching orbit, often in areas downrange from the launch web site which might be clear of individuals.

Like most house junk that comes again into the ambiance, a lot of the Lengthy March 5B rocket burns up as temperatures attain hundreds of levels throughout re-entry. However some particles might attain Earth’s floor intact.

The chance of any of the rocket particles harming somebody or damaging property is low, with objects almost definitely to fall into the ocean or in unpopulated areas. However the uncontrolled re-entry of the primary Lengthy March 5B core stage in 2020 unfold particles over the Ivory Coast. The Lengthy March 5B re-entry final 12 months occurred over the Indian Ocean.

The Chinese language house station orbits about 236 miles (380 kilometers) above Earth, at an inclination of 41.5 levels to the equator. The orbit means the spent Lengthy March 5B core stage might come down anyplace between 41.5 levels north and south latitude.

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Observe Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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