© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The Long March-2F Y13 rocket carrying the Shenzhou 13 spacecraft and three astronauts on China’s second manned mission to build its own space station launches at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center near Jiuquan, Gansu Province, China on October 16,
By Liangping Gao and Yew Lun Tian
BEIJING (Reuters) – On Sunday, China will launch a spacecraft transporting three astronauts to the nuclear module at the unfinished Chinese space station, where they will work and live for six months as construction enters advanced stages.
A Long March-2F rocket with the Shenzhou-14 spacecraft is set to explode from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern Gansu province at 10:44 local time (0244 GMT) on Sunday, a China Manned Space Agency official said. to a press conference Saturday.
Mission Commander Chen Dong will be accompanied by Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe aboard Shenzhou, meaning “divine vessel” in Chinese.
“All preparations for the launch are basically ready,” said Lin Xiqiang, an agency official.
Shenzhou-14 will be the third of four manned missions – and the seventh of a total of 11 missions – needed to complete the space station before the end of the year.
China began building its three-module space station in April 2021 with the launch of Tianhe – the first and largest of the station’s three modules.
Tianhe, which is slightly larger than a subway bus, will form accommodation for visiting astronauts when the T-shaped space station is completed.
After Shenzhou-14, the remaining two modules – the Wentian and Mengtian laboratory cabins – will be launched in July and October, respectively.
Wentian will have a robotic arm, an airlock cabin for trips outside the station, and seating for three more astronauts during crew rotations.
The Shenzhou-14 crew will assist with the setup of Wentian and Mengtian and perform functionality tests on both modules.
The space station will have a designed lifespan of a decade. With its 180 tons, it will be slightly heavier than Russia’s decommissioned Mir and about 20% of the International Space Station galore.