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China's Tianzhou 7 docks with Tiangong Space Station
File image of a Tianzhou cargo ship coming in to dock at China's Tiangong Space Station.
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China's Tianzhou 7 docks with Tiangong Space Station
by Staff Writers
Beijing (XNA) Jan 18, 2024

China's Tianzhou 7 cargo spacecraft has successfully completed its journey to the Tiangong space station, docking without any issues. Launched from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province, Tianzhou 7, aboard a Long March 7 rocket, lifted off at 10:27 pm. The launch was a spectacle of precision and technological prowess, as the rocket placed Tianzhou 7 into its designated low-Earth orbit. The spacecraft's solar wings then unfolded, signifying the successful completion of this phase of the mission.

In the early hours of Thursday, at precisely 1:46 am (Beijing Time), Tianzhou 7 completed its status setting and achieved a milestone by docking at the rear port of the Tianhe core module of the Tiangong space station. This feat exemplifies China's growing expertise and independence in space operations. The China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), which oversees these missions, confirmed the successful docking, noting the precision and efficiency of the operation.

The Tianzhou 7 mission is the first spacecraft to visit the Tiangong space station this year, and is now the 12th spacecraft to dock at Tiangong. Designed and built by the China Academy of Space Technology in Beijing, Tianzhou 7.

Aboard Tianzhou 7 are over 260 packages, collectively weighing nearly 5.6 metric tons. These include scientific apparatus and essential supplies for the Shenzhou XVII astronauts, who have been orbiting for nearly three months. Significantly, the cargo comprises 2.4 tons of food, including fresh vegetables, fruits, and Chinese New Year treats, vital for maintaining the crew's well-being.

Liu Wei, chief designer at the Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, highlighted the scientific significance of the mission. Tianzhou 7 carries 61 sets of scientific equipment and materials, weighing a combined 473 kg, to be used in 33 experiments across various disciplines. These experiments, contributed by 18 domestic universities and institutes, will delve into life and material sciences, microgravity fluid physics, and combustion research.

One notable experiment, led by Shang Peng of Northwestern Polytechnical University, involves human bone cells. The objective is to observe and analyze changes in these cells under microgravity conditions. The findings are expected to enhance understanding of issues like bone density loss and muscle atrophy, which are critical both for astronaut health in space and medical applications on Earth.

Meanwhile, the predecessor of Tianzhou 7, the Tianzhou 6 spacecraft, has undocked from the space station and commenced a solo flight. According to the CMSA, most of Tianzhou 6 will disintegrate upon reentry into Earth's atmosphere, with a small amount of debris planned to fall in the South Pacific Ocean.

The Tiangong space station, orbiting approximately 400 kilometers above Earth, consists of three permanent parts: the core module and two science capsules. This modular station has become a hub of scientific activity and a testament to China's commitment to space exploration and research.

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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