Lengthy March 2F rocket rolls out to launch pad for China’s subsequent human spaceflight – Spaceflight Now

China’s Shenzhou 12 spacecraft, perched on high of its Lengthy March 2F rocket, rolls to a launch pad on the Jiuquan area base in northwestern China. Credit score: CASC

The Lengthy March 2F rocket and Shenzhou 12 spaceship set to ferry three Chinese language astronauts to the nation’s new area station later this month rolled out to a launch pad Wednesday at a distant military-operated spaceport in northwestern China.

The launcher and crew capsule emerged from an meeting constructing on the Jiuquan area base within the Gobi Desert, driving a cellular platform alongside rail tracks to cowl the one-mile (1.6-kilometer) distance to the launch pad.

The 191-foot-tall (58-meter) rocket, the Shenzhou 12 spacecraft, and floor services are in good situation, in accordance with the China Aerospace Science and Know-how Corp., the state-owned prime contractor for China’s area program. Floor groups at Jiuquan will full inspections and checks on the launch automobile within the coming days.

The Shenzhou 12 mission would be the first crew flight to China’s new area station.

The primary aspect of the complicated, the Tianhe core module, launched April 28 aboard a heavy-lift Lengthy March 5B rocket, China’s strongest launch automobile. An unpiloted cargo ship, named Tianzhou 2, launched Could 29 and docked with the Tianhe core module eight hours later, delivering gas, meals and spacesuits for the Shenzhou 12 astronauts.

The Shenzhou 12 mission will final about three months, the longest keep in area up to now by Chinese language astronauts. Shenzhou 12 shall be China’s seventh crewed spaceflight since 2003.

Chinese language officers haven’t introduced the launch date for the Shenzhou 12 mission, however rockets for China’s final three crewed spaceflights rolled to the pad at Jiuquan a few week earlier than liftoff. That implies the launch may happen round June 16 or June 17.

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A Lengthy March 2F rocket carrying China’s Shenzhou 12 spacecraft emerges from an meeting constructing at thee Jiuquan launch base. Credit score: CASC

The identities of Shenzhou 12’s three crew members haven’t been introduced.

In remarks final month, China’s first astronaut — Yang Liwei — stated all three crew members are males and are available from the primary two courses of Chinese language astronauts. Future crews on China’s area station will embrace girls, he stated.

Whereas the Shenzhou 12 astronauts are quarantined earlier than launch, floor crews at Jiuquan will load storable hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellants into the Lengthy March 2F rocket. The poisonous propellant combination will feed thee rocket’s engines, which is able to produce about 1.4 million kilos of thrust at liftoff.

The Shenzhou 12 astronauts will dock with the Tianhe core module after taking off from Jiuquan, linking up with the outpost at an altitude of round 235 miles (380 kilometers).

The Tianhe module shall be joined subsequent yr by two analysis laboratories to finish meeting of the area station, named Tiangong.

The Shenzhou 12 astronauts will unpack the Tianzhou 2 cargo ship after they arrive subsequent month. Tianzhou 2 docked with the rear port on the Tianhe module, and Shenzhou 2 will hyperlink up with the lab’s ahead port.

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The Lengthy March 2F rocket with China’s Shenzhou 12 spacecraft approaches its launch pad Wednesday. Credit score: CASC

Tiangong means heavenly palace in Chinese language, whereas Shenzhou is translated as divine vessel. Tianhe means heavenly concord, and Tianzhou means heavenly vessel.

The Shenzhou 12 astronauts are scheduled to return to Earth in September for a parachute-assisted touchdown in China’s Inside Mongolia province. Across the identical time, China will launch Tianzhou 3, the station’s subsequent cargo resupply ship.

China’s subsequent crewed spaceflight, Shenzhou 13, is scheduled to launch in October, carrying three astronauts for a six-month mission in orbit, in accordance with the China Manned Area Company.

Subsequent yr, China plans six extra launches to assist the area station program. Two Lengthy March 5B rockets will increase the Wentian and Mengtian lab parts to dock with the Tianhe module, finishing meeting of the three-segment, T-shaped area station.

There are additionally two extra cargo spacecraft and two extra Shenzhou crew capsules scheduled to launch in 2022.

Whereas China’s area station continues to be below development, the Tianhe core module already in orbit contains astronaut residing quarters, medial tools, a command and management aspect, and an airlock and exterior handrails for spacewalks. The Shenzhou 12 astronauts will carry out spacewalks exterior the Tianhe module throughout their three-month mission, Yang stated..

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China’s Shenzhou 12 spacecraft sits on high of a Lengthy March 2F launcher. Credit score: CASC

The fully-assembled Chinese language area station outpost shall be round 66 metric tons, about one-sixth the mass of the Worldwide Area Station, and nearer in dimension to Russia’s retired Mir station than the Worldwide Area Station. With cargo and crew autos briefly docked, the Chinese language station’s mass may attain almost 100 metric tons, officers stated.

China launched two Tiangong prototype area labs in 2011 and 2016 to check out applied sciences for the permanently-occupied area station.

The Tiangong 1 area lab hosted two Shenzhou crews in 2012 and 2013. China’s most up-to-date human spaceflight mission — Shenzhou 11 — docked with the Tiangong 2 module in 2016.

In whole, China has launched 11 astronauts into orbit on six crewed Shenzhou missions since 2003.

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Observe Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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