On April 12, 2021, the China Manned Space Engineering Office announced that the Long March 7 space vehicle has landed alongside the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft. The cargo transporter will carry the supplies for the upcoming space station launch. The Asian country bred the idea of building a space station in 1992 and the three-module orbital facility might be up and running by 2022. The core space station will be launched first by Tianhe spacecraft abode Long March 5B rocket and is expected to go live towards the end of this month.
The Long March 7 will be assembled at Wenchang to prepare it for the Tianzhou-2 launch. The space vehicle uses kerosene and liquid oxygen fuel and is set to be ready before the end of May. Tianzhou -2 will ride on the rocket to provide Tianhe with fuel to maintain orbital altitude and astronauts’ supplies. Apart from the two modular missions for the space station, China is rolling out other missions this year. The Shenzhou-12 mission will take three astronauts to the Tianhe core to work on the space station development. The Long March 2F rocket will carry the trio towards the end of June.
China plans to complete the three space station modules installation by the end of next year, with over ten launches between now and then. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) aims to conduct three launches for the three nodules, four launches for crewed missions, and four cargo spacecraft flights. The agency is training astronauts in readiness for the crewed missions. Twelve astronauts will fly to space in four missions. CASC has also instructed that a Long March 2F rocket be prepared, waiting on the Jiuquan spaceport for emergency rescue missions to the space station.
Once the space station is up and running, three astronauts will camp there for six months conducting research. These studies include international projects in astronomy, space medicine, biotechnology, microgravity fluid physics, among others. Although the space station could be expanded in the future to six modules, the sixty-six metric ton facility will first consist of the three modules. It will be orbiting the earth at 340-450 kilometer altitude for a decade. It will be inclined at forty-three degrees to make it easy for launches to the facility to be conducted from the Jiuquan launch site.
When the Long March 5 rocket failed to launch in 2017, China’s dream of starting the space station construction between 2018 and 2019 was crushed. This year, everything is going as planned so far, and the country is still hopeful the station will be complete by 2022. This mission’s success will make China the third country to develop an independent human spaceflight capacity after Russia and the United States.