China’s cargo spacecraft completes fast-docking with space lab Tiangong-2
Beijing: China’s first cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1 completed an automated fast-docking with experimental space lab Tiangong-2 which is currently in orbit.
Controlled from Earth, Tianzhou-1 began to approach Tiangong-2 at 5:24PM (local time) yesterday and it took six and a half hours to complete the fast-docking with the space lab.
It was the third docking between the two spacecraft using fast-docking technology. Previously, it took about two days to dock, state-run Xinhua news agency reported. Chinese scientists are using experimental space lab to master the docking technology for its permanent space station expected to be ready by 2022.
China aims to build a permanent space station rival to Russia’s International Space Station, Mir. It is expected to orbit for at least 10 years, and the debut of the cargo ship is important as it acts as a courier to help maintain the space station.
The experiment tested the cargo spacecraft’s capability of fast-docking, laying a foundation for future space station building.
Tianzhou-1 was launched on 20 April from south China’s Hainan Province, and it completed the first and second docking with the orbiting Tiangong-2 space lab on 22 April and 19 June respectively.
The cargo spacecraft will conduct the third refuelling of the space lab before returning to Earth. The two spacecraft completed their first in-orbit refuelling on 27 April and their second in-orbit refuelling on 15 June.
China is the third country, after Russia and the US, to master refuelling techniques in space, which is crucial in the building of a permanent space station, the report said.
Tiangong-2, which was sent into space on 15 September 2016, is China’s first space lab “in the strict sense” and a key step in building a permanent space station. Cargo ships play a crucial role maintaining a space station and carrying supplies and fuel into orbit. PTI
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