China Successfully Launches SpaceLab Tiangong-2 –International Space Station and Science Discoveries to Follow

 

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China successfully launched space lab the Tiangong-2 Thursday night from the Jiuquan satellite launch center in northwest China. Tiangong-2 will link with Shenzhou-11 manned spaceship, which will be launched later in October. Also piggybacking on the Tiangong-2 launch is a micro satellite that will orbit close to the space lab –its purpose has not been reported. The mission is part of China’s ambitious space program to build a permanent manned space station around year 2022.


With the sound of rolling thunder on the vast Gobi dessert, Tiangong-2 space lab blasted off into space propelled by its Long March 2F carrier rocket, shortly after 10pm on Thursday. In just 585 seconds, Tiangong-2 was placed in an orbit about 393 kilometers above the Earth.

 

                                      

 

The Shenzhou-11 spaceship will ferry two astronauts to dock with the lab and stay in space for 30 days to conduct a range of scientific experiments covering areas such as fundamental physics, biology, fluid mechanics in micro gravity and aerospace medicine. More than 40 space science and application experiments will be conducted aboard Tiangong-2.

Once inside Tiangong-2, the two astronauts will carry out key experiments related to aerospace medicine, space physics and biology as well as on-orbit equipment repairs in areas such as quantum key transmission, space atomic clock and solar storm research.

 

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“The number of experiments carried by Tiangong-2 is the highest so far of all manned space missions,” said Wu Ping, deputy director of the manned space engineering office. Its payload includes POLAR, a collaboration between Swiss, Polish and Chinese institutions to study gamma ray bursts. The space cold atomic clock, which scientists say only loses one second about every 30 million years, is expected to make future mobile navigation more accurate.

Many experiments are at the very forefront of space science exploration, and one of them is the world’s first in-space cold atomic clock, used to improve time measurements to the equivalent of one second every 30 million years, and will also result in improvements in navigation accuracy.

Lv Congmoin, Deputy director at the technology and engineering center for space utilization, Chinese academy of sciences, says “The synchronization of the navigation system on our mobile phone runs via the internet. But the function of time correction systems all depends on numerous atomic clocks on the ground. If we can maintain the smooth running of the cold atomic clock in space, time synchronization between the earth and space can finally be achieved, thus improving navigation accuracy. “

The new space lab, designed with two modules, offers a larger payload capacity, better living quarters, and new communication technologies on board.

As a major breakthrough in the “three step strategy” proposed by Chinese scientists toward the goal of building a permanent manned space station, the Tiangong2 is expected to further boost the development of China’s space exploration.

“Tiangong 2 is the first space vehicle in the second phase of the second step of the strategy,” says Chief designer of the Tiangong-2 space lab Zhu Zongpeng. “It’s going to dock with Shenzhou-11 this year, and with a cargo vessel next year. Once it has completed missions of long term space stays, facility maintenance, refueling, and space experiments, it will be the end of the phase. If we cannot carry out the mission well, it’s going to affect the building of the space station directly. So Tiangong-2 has great significance in the process. “

The manned space engineering office said in March that the orbit of Tiangong-1 will descend gradually over several months until the orbiter eventually burns up in the atmosphere.

The Daily Galaxy via cri.cn and xinhuanet.com

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