According to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), the Wentian lab module docked with the front port of the Tianhe core module at 3:13 a.m. on July 25 (Beijing Time), after it entered its planned orbit and completed state setting. The whole process took approximately 13 hours, the CMSA said.
This is the first time that China’s two 20-ton-level spacecrafts have conducted rendezvous and docking in orbit, and it is also the first time that they were carried out during the astronauts’ in-orbit stay in the space station. Later, the crew of Shenzhou-14 astronauts will enter Wentian as scheduled, the CMSA said.
The Long March-5B Y3 carrier rocket, carrying Wentian, blasted off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on the coast of China’s southern island province of Hainan at 2:22 p.m. on Sunday. About 495 seconds later, Wentian separated from the rocket and entered its planned orbit.
This is the 24th flight mission since the country’s manned space program was approved and initiated. Wentian is the second part of China’s three-module Tiangong space station and the first lab module. Consisting of a work cabin, an airlock cabin and a resource cabin, the Wentian module is 17.9 meters (59 feet) long, with a takeoff mass of about 23 tons. It will mainly support the extravehicular activities and accommodation of the astronauts, serving both as a backup of the core module and as a powerful scientific experimentation platform.
Wentian has the country’s largest set of flexible solar panels with double degrees of freedom, and a full wingspan of over 55 meters. The two solar panels will effectively collect more solar energy for the space station, generating an average of more than 430 kWh per day.
Wentian mainly focuses on the research of life science and biotechnology. Researchers have installed in it experiment cabinets of life ecology, biotechnology, variable gravity and so on, to help reveal the effects of microgravity on the growth, development and metabolism of plants and animals, and to explore and establish an applied controlled life ecosystem.