China published the first high-quality images of its Tiangong orbital station. They were made by the crew of the Shenzhou-16 mission.
The assembly of the Tiangong station began in the spring of 2021, when its base module was launched into orbit. In July 2022, the Wentian laboratory module was added to it, and in November — the Mengtian module. Despite the fact that more than a year has passed since then, the Chinese National Space Administration has only now published high-quality images of Tiangong.
At the moment, Tiangong has a T-shaped configuration. The total mass of its three modules is about 70 tons, and the volume of the internal space is 340 m3 (of which 122 m3 are inhabited). The station is designed for the permanent stay of three taikonauts and can provide the presence of six people during the “shift change” of the crews.
At the time of the capture, the Shenzhou and Tianzhou spacecraft were docked to Tiangong. The first is used for the delivery of crews to the station, and the second for the delivery of cargo.
It is worth noting that this is not the final view of the station. In the future, China plans to add a multifunctional module equipped with six docking ports to Tiangong. This will allow more spacecraft to dock at the station and will also make it possible to expand the complex with new modules. After that, Tiangong will overtake Mir and become the second largest orbital station in history.
In addition, China plans to launch the Xuntian space telescope next summer. Although it is not part of Tiangong, the orbital observatory will dock with the station from time to time for maintenance.
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