China's first cargo spacecraft docks with orbiting space lab

Geronimo Vena
Aprile 23, 2017

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China has launched its first domestically engineered cargo spacecraft, a crucial step in Beijing's goal to launch and resupply a manned space station by 2022.

It made first contact with the space lab at 12:16 pm on Saturday (04:16 GMT) and docking was completed at 12:23 pm.

With a length of 10.6 metres, a maximum diameter of 3.35m and a mass of 13 tonnes, Tianzhou-1 is China's largest spacecraft so far, designed for launch on a Long March 7 rocket to keep the CSS fuelled and its astronauts fully supplied.

In order to do that, they showed their capability to launch Tiangong 1 and 2 and send Chinese astronauts for long haul space duties. The pair spent 30 days on board the station previous year.

President Xi Jinping has prioritised advancing China's space programme to strengthen national security and defence.

China launched the Tiangong 2 precursor facility in September and the stations 20-ton core module will be launched next year.

Above: A view of the inside Tianzhou-1 and its cargo while in orbit (Framegrab/CCTV).

Since China conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, it has staged a spacewalk and landed its Jade Rabbit rover on the moon.

The space centre on Tuesday conducted the final rehearsal for the launch, which covered all systems involved in the launch, such as the rocket, spacecraft, launching site and testing, control and communication systems.

Also important for the mission's success is transfer of fuel from Tianzhou-1 to Tiangong-2.

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