by Morris Jones for SpaceDaily
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Apr 18, 2017
Fairly soon, we can expect the launch of China's first cargo spaceship, Tianzhou 1. The Tianzhou module will fly from China's new spaceport on Hainan Island aboard a Long March 7 rocket. will dock with the uncrewed Tiangong 2 space laboratory, which is itself smaller than the cargo spacecraft that will soon visit it.
Apart from testing the cargo spacecraft and its docking procedures, there will also be fuel transfer from the Tianzhou cargo ship to the Tiangong space laboratory.
The flight of Tianzhou 1 marks another major step in China's human spaceflight program, but it also represents the closing of a major phase of its development. All recent Chinese astronaut missions have been focused on a long-term goal: Preparing for the Chinese Space Station, which will be flying above us before this decade is out.
China has practiced living in space for long periods on board two Tiangong space laboratories, which should be classified as small space stations in their own right. The technology for the future space station has mostly been demonstrated on these small modules.
China has repeatedly performed rendezvous and docking exercises, both automatically and with manual control. Steadily, China has been ticking the boxes for its preparations to gain a major foothold in human spaceflight. The operations of the Tianzhou cargo spacecraft will tick the final boxes on this list of tasks.
In addition to the spacecraft in orbit, China has also successfully flown the Long March 7 and Long March 5 launch vehicles. Despite the numerical order, Long March 5 is the larger of this pair, representing the most powerful rocket ever developed by China.
These rockets are vital to the successful operation of China's space station. Long March 5 will carry the large modules for the station, while Long March 7 will continue to launch Tianzhou-class cargo spacecraft.
The well-tested Shenzhou astronaut-carrying spacecraft will be used to carry astronauts to and from the space station.
Some observers may consider the upcoming flight of a robot cargo spacecraft to an uncrewed laboratory to seem slightly mundane. Nothing could be further from the truth. This is the final step before the greatest phase of China's space program.
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.
Nanjing (XNA) Mar 31, 2017
Yuanwang space tracking ships, which follows the progress of satellites and other space-bound craft, will carry out 19 maritime space monitoring missions in 2017, according to the maritime satellite measurement and control authority on Wednesday. Yuanwang-5 left port Wednesday and Yuanwang-6 started its journey Monday. Yuanwang-7 and the rocket transporting fleet will set sail in Apr ... read more
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