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China Prepares to Launch Tianzhou 7 Cargo Ship to Tiangong Space Station
Schematic of the Tianzhou cargo spacecraft.
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China Prepares to Launch Tianzhou 7 Cargo Ship to Tiangong Space Station
by Simon Mansfield
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Jan 17, 2024

The China Manned Space Agency recently announced that the Tianzhou 7, the first spacecraft to visit China's Tiangong space station this year, is scheduled for an imminent launch. This event marks a significant step in China's ongoing space endeavors, as Tianzhou 7 is poised to become the 12th spacecraft to rendezvous with the Tiangong station.

Equipped for the mission, the Long March 7 carrier rocket has been strategically positioned at its launch service tower in the Wenchang Space Launch Center, Hainan province. This move signifies the readiness of the mission, as confirmed by the agency in a news release on Monday. The Long March 7, a liquid-fueled rocket developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, boasts impressive specifications - a height of 53.1 meters, a core-stage diameter of 3.35 meters, and a liftoff weight of 597 metric tons. With its six 120-ton-thrust engines, this launch vehicle is capable of sending up to 13.5 tons of payload into low-Earth orbit or 5.5 tons into a sun-synchronous orbit.

The primary role of Tianzhou 7 will be to deliver essential supplies to the Tiangong space station, including propellants, science payloads, and necessities for the Shenzhou XVII astronauts, who have been in orbit for 81 days. The spacecraft's enhanced capacity, a notable improvement from its predecessors, allows it to carry more payloads, thus reducing the frequency of resupply missions required for the space station's operation.

Pang Zhihao, a seasoned expert in space exploration technology at the China Academy of Space Technology, highlighted the upgraded capabilities of the Tianzhou 7. "Starting from the Tianzhou 6, our cargo vessels now have more inner space and thus can contain more payloads for the crew, so launching three cargo ships is enough to support a two-year stay in orbit for astronauts," he explained. This improvement underscores China's advancements in space technology, ensuring that the Tianzhou series remains a reliable and efficient resupply vessel for the Tiangong.

In preparation for this launch, the Long March 7 rocket was transported to the Wenchang center in late December, where it underwent rigorous prelaunch checks alongside the cargo ship. The ground equipment at the center has been reported to be in optimal condition, with final functionality tests currently underway for systems involved in the launch.

In a related development, the Tianzhou 6 cargo craft, which previously docked with the Tiangong space station, has undocked and commenced a solo flight phase. The space agency has revealed that Tianzhou 6 is set to reenter the Earth's atmosphere soon, with most of the spacecraft expected to burn up during reentry. Any residual debris is anticipated to fall into secured areas in the South Pacific Ocean.

Tiangong, orbiting about 400 kilometers above Earth, comprises three permanent parts: a core module and two science capsules. It serves as a pivotal platform for China's space exploration and research endeavors, regularly hosting both crew and cargo spaceships.

The upcoming Tianzhou 7 mission is a testament to China's growing capabilities in space exploration and its commitment to the continuous operation and utilization of the Tiangong space station. This launch not only contributes to the sustenance of astronauts aboard the station but also plays a crucial role in advancing China's scientific research and exploration in space.

Based on a Xinhua News Agency article

Related Links
China Manned Space Agency
The Chinese Space Program - News, Policy and Technology
China News from SinoDaily.com

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The latest mission in China's expanding space program, involving the Tianzhou 7 cargo spaceship, is underway at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province, as confirmed by the China Manned Space Agency. This spacecraft is set to join the Tiangong space station, a significant step in China's ongoing efforts in space exploration and station maintenance. Preparations for this critical mission have reached a new stage with the Long March 7 carrier rocket, a reliable player in China's space en ... read more

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