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Chinese astronauts enter CSS lab module in orbit one day after launch

Three Chinese astronauts aboard the country’s space station, currently under construction, successfully entered the orbiting laboratory module for the first time on Monday, a day after the launch of the space laboratory, according to the China Manned Space Agency. .

China launched its space lab called Wentian on Sunday, sending the country’s largest spacecraft into Earth orbit to be part of the space station named Tiangong that is currently under construction.

The Wentian module docked at the space station’s forward port in the early hours of Monday after entering the planned orbit.

It is the first time that China’s two 20-ton spacecraft have performed orbit rendezvous and docking, and also the first time that space rendezvous and docking have been performed during the stay. orbiting astronauts in the space station, the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) told official media.

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After docking, the three astronauts who were building the space station entered the laboratory, Xinhua reports the news agency.

It was the first time for Chinese astronauts to enter the orbiting laboratory module.

Astronauts will perform in-orbit work such as attitude control of the space station suit, crawling small mechanical arm, and testing of the large and light weapons complex.

They will also use the airlock cabin and Wentian’s small mechanical arm to perform extravehicular activities, the state-owned enterprise Xinhua reports the news agency.

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In the coming weeks, Wentian will be repositioned by a robotic device from the forward docking port to a side port, where it will remain and be prepared for long-term operations, mission planners said.

The new lab module will function both as a backup to the main module and as a powerful platform for scientific experimentation, Chinese daily China Daily reported.

The lab, which is the size of a subway car, is the world’s heaviest active single-cabin spacecraft in orbit, according to Liu Gang, deputy chief designer of the space station system of China’s manned space program. .

The Wentian module consists of a working cabin, an airlock cabin and a resource cabin, the Xinhua says the report.

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Construction of China’s Tiangong space station is expected to be completed this year.

It will then evolve from a single-module structure to a national space laboratory with three modules – the core module named Tianhe and the laboratory modules named Wentian and Mengtian.

The Tianhe module was launched in April 2021, and the Mengtian module is expected to be launched in October this year.

Later, the Wentian module will rendezvous and dock with the space station suit, according to the scheduled procedures.

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The three astronauts who were sent into orbit on June 5 will help assemble the modules for their six-month space mission.

While in orbit, they will also see the Tianzhou-5 cargo ship and the Shenzhou-15 crewed spacecraft dock with the main module.

Then they will live and work with the next group of astronauts before returning to Earth.

Once ready, China’s low-flying space station will be the only country with a space station. The International Space Station (ISS) of Russia is a collaborative project of several countries.

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The Chinese Space Station (CSS) is also expected to be a competitor to the Russian-built ISS.

Observers say CSS could become the only space station to remain in orbit once the ISS retires in the coming years.

The prominent feature of the Chinese space station being built is its two robotic arms, particularly the long one that the United States has previously expressed concerns about its ability to grab objects including satellites from the space.

The 10-meter-long arm previously grabbed and successfully moved a 20-tonne Tianzhou-2 cargo ship during a test, according to the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO).