Tiangong space station marks key step in assembly
by Staff Writers
Beijing (XNA) Oct 06, 2022
The Wentian lab module of China's Tiangong space station has been repositioned to dock with a radial port on the station's Tianhe core module on Friday afternoon, which marked a key step in Tiangong's in-orbit assembly, according to the China Manned Space Agency.
The agency said in a news release that during the hour-long operation that finished at 12:44 pm, Wentian was moved from the axial port of Tianhe to a radial port of the core module. The maneuver was carried out based on cooperation between astronauts inside the Tiangong and ground controllers.
After the operation, the Tiangong station is now L-shaped and will remain in that shape until the docking with the Mengtian lab module that is scheduled to be launched around year's end, the agency noted.
Wentian was launched in late July from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province to connect with the Tianhe core module.
With its 23-ton weight and 17.9-meter length, Wentian is currently the largest and heaviest spacecraft China has ever built and also the world's heaviest self-propelled spaceship in service.
Inside the gigantic lab, there are eight scientific cabinets. They are mainly used to serve biological and life science studies and can support research on the growth, aging and genetic traits of plants, animals and microbes in the space environment.
Wentian also has 22 extravehicular payload adapters capable of carrying scientific equipment needed for experiments that require exposure to the space environment, cosmic rays, vacuum and solar winds.
By now, three groups of Chinese astronauts have lived and worked inside the Tiangong space station, which now consists of the Tianhe module, the Wentian lab, the Shenzhou XIV spacecraft, and the Tianzhou 4 cargo ship.
The current habitants - the three crew members of the Shenzhou XIV mission - have spent nearly four months in it and have carried out two spacewalks. They are to stay in the station until early December, when the Shenzhou XV crew will take over.
The Mengtian space lab, Tiangong's second lab component, is scheduled to be launched in October.
Scientific equipment onboard will be used for microgravity studies and to carry out experiments in fluid physics, materials science, combustion science and fundamental physics, mission planners have said.
Once Mengtian is connected to Tiangong, the station will be T-shaped and astronauts will have as much as 110 cubic meters of usable space.
Transposition of China's space station lab module completed
It was the first time China has completed the in-orbit transposition of a large-scale spacecraft cabin by applying transfer facilities, the CMSA said.
During the transposition, the Wentian lab module first completed its state configuration and separated from the space station's core module Tianhe. Following up, Wentian conducted transposition and then docked with the side port of the space station's node cabin.
Wentian was moved to the same plane as the core module to ensure the path of its barycenter also stays on the same plane, thus reducing possible disturbances to the space station combination, said Wei Zhi, an engineer from the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, a subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.
Lasting around one hour, the operation was the result of cooperation between astronauts in space and professionals on Earth, the agency said.
Through the transposition, the combination has changed from a straight line to L-shape. After the arrival of the Mengtian lab module, the three-module combination will be maneuvered to take on a T-shape.
The Mengtian module is set to be launched in October this year.
China begins search for fourth astronaut generation
The agency said in a news release on Sunday afternoon experts will pick 12 to 14 candidates for the new generation. Among them, seven to eight will be spacecraft pilots, three to four will be engineers and two will be payload specialists.
The pilots will be chosen from aviators now serving in the People's Liberation Army. The spaceflight engineers will be selected from researchers and technicians in aerospace or related industries. The payload specialists will be picked from scientists working on space science and technology.
The recruitment and selection processes are scheduled to be finished within 18 months, the agency said, noting the posts of payload specialists are open to those from the Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions.
As construction of China's space station gradually unfolds, the country needs fresh talent to carry out the ambitious endeavor.
Currently, the Astronaut Center of China in Beijing is training the third group of Chinese astronauts.
The 18 new astronauts-17 men and one woman-are in three groups: seven spacecraft pilots, another seven as spaceflight engineers and the last four as payload specialists. They are undergoing systematic training before being certified for space missions.
Selection for the third generation team began in May 2018 and wrapped up in September 2020, involving three rounds of tests. About 2,500 applicants participated.
Before the third group, China had 21 astronauts from two generations. Among them, 14 have taken part in nine flight missions, including the latest Shenzhou XIV. Several in the first generation who had not taken part in any spaceflights during their service have already retired.
Source: Xinhua News Agency
China begins search for fourth astronaut generation
Beijing (XNA) Oct 05, 2022
China has recently started recruiting the country's fourth generation of astronauts, and the search has opened to people in Hong Kong and Macao for the first time, the China Manned Space Agency said. The agency said in a news release on Sunday afternoon experts will pick 12 to 14 candidates for the new generation. Among them, seven to eight will be spacecraft pilots, three to four will be engineers and two will be payload specialists. The pilots will be chosen from aviators now serving in th ... read more
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