Shenzhou-14 docked with the orbital station

The Chinese spacecraft Shenzhou-14 has successfully docked with the base module of the Tiangong orbital station. It delivered three taikonauts aboard the complex, as well as fuel, supplies, equipment for scientific experiments and several cubesats.

Launch of the Shenzhou-14 spacecraft. Source: CNN

Shenzhou-14 was launched on June 5 from the Jiuquan Cosmodrome. The crew of the spacecraft included Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe. For Chen Dong and Liu Yang, this is the second orbital flight (in 2012, Liu Yang became the first Chinese woman to visit space).

The Shenzhou-14 crew will have to spend six months in orbit. It has a very important task assigned to it. The taikonauts will have to “accept” two 20-ton laboratory modules “Wentian” and “Mengtian”. They will be launched in July and October 2022. After docking, the crew will have to test them, check the operation of the airlock chamber of the Wentian module, using it for spacewalking, as well as large and small manipulators.

In addition, the taikonauts will conduct a number of scientific studies and experiments. Ten days before their return to Earth, the Shenzhou-15 spacecraft with a replacement crew will dock at Tiangong. Thus, for the first time in history, six space explorers from China will be in near-Earth orbit at once, and the station  will become continuously inhabited.

After the docking of “Wentian” and “Mengtian”, the mass of “Tiangong” will increase to 60 tons. It will become the third largest orbital station in history after “Mir” and the ISS. At the next stage, at the end of 2023, China will launch the Xuntian telescope module into an orbit similar to Tiangong. If necessary, it will be able to dock with the orbital station for refueling, maintenance and replacement of scientific instruments.

According to

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