All you need to know about the Chinese space station Tiangong?

The Chinese space program is making impressive progress, as the country launched its first crewed flight only in 2003, more than 40 years later when Yuri Gagarin of the Soviet Union became the first human in space, the first Chinese mission to Mars was in 2020. Half a century after the US probe, Mariner 9, passed over the Red Planet.

But the rising Asian superpower is fast catching up air missions to the Moon and Mars; Launch heavy rockets, build a new space telescope will fly in 2024. And recently, it put the first piece of the Tiangong space station into orbit.

What is the Tiangong space station?

Tiangong is the successor to the Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2 space labs in China, which were launched in 2011 and 2016, respectively, to be built on a modular design, similar to the International Space Station operated by the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, and the European Space Agency, when completed. Tiangong will consist of a base unit connected to two laboratories with a total weight of approximately 70 tons.

The base capsule called Tianhe, the size of a bus, this center contains life support and control systems, and this center will be the living quarters of the station. The Tianhe capsule, weighing 22.5 tons, is the largest and heaviest spacecraft ever built by China.

The capsule will be central to future space station operations. In 2022, two slightly smaller units are expected to join Tianhe to expand the space station and allow for many scientific and technological experiments to be conducted. Ultimately, the station will include 14 internal test racks and 50 external ports for space environment studies.

Tianhe will be just a fifth the size of the International Space Station and will host up to three crew members at a time. The first three astronauts (as Chinese astronauts are often known) are expected to take up residence in June.

Turbulent launch

Tianhe was launched from the Chinese island of Hainan on April 29 aboard a Long March 5B missile.

These missiles have a single core stage and four boosters, each about 28 meters high - the height of a nine-story building - and more than 3 meters wide, the Long March 5B weighs about 850 tons when fully refueled, and can lift a 25-ton payload into orbit. Low ground.

During the Tianhe launch, the missile's giant base stage - which weighed about 20 tons - spiraled out of control and eventually fell over a week later in the Indian Ocean. The lack of a control system for the missile's return to Earth drew criticism from the international community.

Nevertheless, these missiles are a key component of China's short-range ambitions in space and are planned to be used to deliver units and crew to Tiangong, as well as launch exploration probes to the moon and ultimately Mars.

Despite leaving a large chunk of space trash behind, Tianhee managed to safely reach orbit, one hour and 13 minutes after launch, the solar panels got into action and the unit was put into operation.

Completion and future

Tianhe is now in low Earth orbit (about 400 kilometers above the Earth's surface), awaiting the first of ten supply flights scheduled for the next 18 months that Tiangong will take.

A pair of test units called Wentian (Quest for Heavens) and Mengtian (Dreaming of Heavens) are planned to be launched in 2022. Although the station is being built by China alone, nine other countries have already undergone flight trials aboard the Tiangong.

How to see the Tiangong space station

Tianhee is already visible with the naked eye, if you know where and when to look, to know when a space station can be visible from where you are, you can check websites like n2yo, which shows you the station's current location and projected path for the next 10 days, note that these predictions are based on Models can change very quickly, because the space station falls slowly into its orbit and periodically enhances itself to higher altitudes.

The station revolves around the earth every 91 minutes, once you find the next traffic time for the station over your location at night where you will not be able to see it in the day, check which direction you will come from, look for a dark spot away from the bright lights, also look for a small fast-moving spark From light swinging across the sky.

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