China's space station follows order of orbital maneuver for launch of Wentian lab module
The Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC) on Monday gave an order of orbital maneuver to China's Tiangong space station complex to prepare for the arrival of the Wentian space lab later this month.
The Wentian lab module will be launched from the Wenchang Space Launch Site in the southern island province of Hainan later this month, and will rendezvous and dock with the space station complex, which will be the main base for China's space life science research.
"Today, we've just completed the phase modulation control for the Wentian launch. As the launch time is approaching, we are working on the separation of Tianzhou-3. Before that, we will use Tianzhou-3 to carry out an orbital transfer. The Tianzhou-3 will be separated from the space station complex before the launch of Wentian," said Wang Qianjin, deputy chief engineer with the BACC.
The space station complex now consists of a core module named Tianhe, two cargo crafts respectively named Tianzhou-3 and Tianzhou-4 and the crewed Shenzhou-14 spacecraft. The separation of Tianzhou-3 will mainly free up the interface for the subsequent rendezvous and docking between the Wentian space lab and the Tianhe core module.
A fast automated rendezvous and docking will be adopted for the Wentian mission. But just in case, the three Chinese astronauts aboard the Shenzhou-14 spaceship -- Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe -- may be deployed for a manual rendezvous and docking mission.
"They will prepare for a manual rendezvous and docking, which will be implemented when necessary to ensure a smooth docking process," said Wu Dawei, deputy chief designer with the astronaut system under the China Astronaut Research and Training Center.
The Shenzhou-14 crew have checked and tested their extravehicular spacesuits. They are expected to complete two to three extravehicular activities from the hatch of the Wentian module during their six-month stay in space.
In recent days, the Beijing Aerospace Control Center has upgraded the software systems of the space station complex to improve safety and stability for subsequent missions.
"Upgrading the in-orbit softwares mainly aims at enabling the equipment in space to withstand the harsh space environment. The ground crew will try their best to prevent the software upgrading from impacting the astronauts' operation in space. So, the ground crew will adopt more convenient and more varied monitoring and control measures," said Hu Guolin, deputy commander of the operation team at the BACC.
The Shenzhou-14 spaceship was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gobi Desert on June 5 and successfully docked with the in-orbit space station core module Tianhe afterwards.