China’s second orbiting spacelab Tiangong-2 and its carrier rocket, Long March 2F, were transferred to the launch pad on Friday at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern province of Gansu.
The Tiangong-2 is expected to be sent to space from September 15-20, to conduct up to 14 types of experiments in space that will focus on cutting edge technologies such as space materials science and space life science.
The spacelab, which will be orbiting at 393 kilometers above the Earth, will also carry a range of payloads developed by the National Space Science Centre (NSSC) under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) with collaboration from the University of Geneva in Switzerland.
Unlike the Tiangong-1, China’s first prototype space lab, the Tiangong-2 is designed to host astronauts for a longer period of time. The Shenzhou 11 spacecraft, which will carry two astronauts, will take off in October to dock with the Tiangong-2. Two astronauts, who have not been named yet, are expected go with the lab for up to 30 days where they will conduct two experiments.
Next year, Tiangong-2 is set to dock with China’s refueling and cargo ship, The Tianzhou-1, resupplying the space lab. The Tiangong-1 was designed for a two-year service in orbit; however the Tiangong-2 is expected to operate longer.
The Tiangong-2 is part of China’s ambitious plans for a future permanent manned space station, which is scheduled to enter into service in 2022.
Other world powers are also stepping up efforts to develop and introduce their new generation of launch vehicles.
Russia is now developing its new “Angara rocket family” series, which will consist of rockets that have different thrust powers. The rockets will range from two to 72 tons and will be assembled from various all-purpose rocket modules.
If successfully developed, the Angara carrier rockets will replace the existing launch vehicles as the country’s future main force in space launch technology.
In the United States, research into the newest launch vehicle called the Space Launch System (SLS) has progressed. The rocket will be the most powerful ever built, with its engine measuring 54 meters long, and its payload expected to exceed 130 tons. The test launch of SLS was successful in March of last year, with its formal launch scheduled for 2017.
Meanwhile, the European Space Agency is developing Ariane-6. The newest generation of the carrier rockets is equipped with a hydrogen-oxygen engine and a more flexible solid booster. Ariane-6 is scheduled to make its maiden launch in 2020 when it will replace the current Ariane-5 rocket.
Story by CCTV News