The Shenzhou-14 transport rocket is flying towards the Chinese Tiangong orbital space station under construction. On board there are three astronauts responsible for completing the construction work.
Since 1992, the People’s Republic of China has been implementing a multi-stage plan of near-Earth expansion, the culmination of which is to be the construction of an independent space station. The Sunday start of the Shenzhou-14 mission is another step towards its completion.
The “divine ship” has left
The launch of the Shenzhou-14 transport rocket – which in Chinese means “divine ship” – took place at 10.44 am local time, i.e. 4.44 Polish time. The vehicle was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert and headed towards the Tiangong orbital station under construction.
There are three astronauts aboard the rocket: Mission Commander Chen Dong and astronauts Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe. Their task will be to connect the three station modules together. In outer space is the first fragment, Tianhe, providing life support and accommodation for three. The Wentian and Mengtian research modules will join it in July and October.
The heavenly palace takes shape
According to local media, the Shenzhou-14 crew will spend six months at the station. If all goes to plan, more astronauts will join them in December and will also remain in orbit. The completed space station will be able to stay six researchers at the same time.
The name Tiangong was chosen not by accident – it means “heavenly palace”. The station is the culmination of the Chinese Crew Program in The cosmos (CMS), which has been running continuously for 30 years. Its first module was launched into low Earth orbit in April 2021, but the history of the first manned missions carried out under the program dates back to 2003.
Main photo source: Reuters