by Morris Jones
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Sep 16, 2016
The successful launch of Tiangong 2 marks a good start for the mission of China's last small space laboratory. It's also critical to the success of the space missions that will follow in its wake. Without a spaceworthy laboratory in orbit, there would be no point in launching any spacecraft slated to dock with it.
It's good news for China as the nation celebrates its traditional moon festival, and also gives some degree of succour as China deals with the effects of a major typhoon.
The launch also helps to break a string of recent launch failures that would have raised concerns before the flight. In recent times, China has lost a launch, SpaceX experienced a picturesque launchpad explosion and an Israeli satellite apparently failed shortly after launch.
The check-out phase for Tiangong 2 will continue for weeks, although China may find it easier to certify this module than its predecessor. Tiangong 2 is based on the same basic design as Tiangong 1, which performed superbly during its operational mission. Past experience and past successes will ease many concerns.
It's also worth noting that Tiangong 2 is slated to enter a higher orbit than its predecessor, which is designed to emulate the operational orbit of the future Chinese Space Station. Tiangong will probably stay at its currently lower orbit for at least a few days before it is raised to this operational orbit.
The next phase in the Tiangong 2 saga will be the launch of the Shenzhou 11 spacecraft with two astronauts aboard. They will attempt a record stay in space for Chinese astronauts. Shenzhou 11 will probably lift off next month, if all goes well.
Dr Morris Jones is an Australian space analyst who has written for spacedaily.com since 1999. Email morrisjonesNOSPAMhotmail.com. Replace NOSPAM with @ to send email. Dr Jones will answer media inquiries.
China National Space Administration
The Chinese Space Program - News, Policy and Technology
China News from SinoDaily.com
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