Tag Archives: Tiangong 2

Chinese astronauts to return to Earth this week

The competition heats up: After spending a month in orbit in their country’s second orbiting space station module, two Chinese astronauts are expected to return to Earth this week.

The article provides a lot of details about China’s upcoming space station plans. For example, this will likely be the last manned mission to the Tiangong-2 module. It will be used next year to test the docking of an unmanned freighter, but the next manned mission will be to the core unit of their full-sized space station, now set to launch in 2018 on a Long March 5 rocket, which successfully completed its first test launch two weeks ago.

Chinese smallsat snaps pictures of Chinese space station

One third of the way through their month long mission, on Sunday the two Chinese astronauts aboard Tiangong-2 released a smallsat designed to maneuver around the station and take images of it.

The cubical craft deployed from Tiangong 2 on Sunday is about the size of a printer, and it took sharp black-and-white pictures of the space lab and the Shenzhou 11 crew transport craft docked together around 235 miles (380 kilometers) above Earth. Fitted with a 25-megapixel camera and an ammonia-based propulsion system, the Banxing 2 satellite is expected to loiter around Tiangong 2 and Shenzhou 11, and eventually return to the vicinity of the complex to take pictures from above with Earth in the background, according to Chinese state media reports.

The first batch of photos from Banxing 2’s departure are looking up at the mini-space station complex, with the blackness of space as a backdrop. In addition to the imagery taken by the micro-satellite’s visible camera, Banxing 2 captured more than 300 infrared pictures during the flyaway sequence.

This is a neat idea, one that neither Russia nor the U.S. ever did on their stations. Moreover, to provide this smallsat a propulsion system is significant, since satellites this small have traditionally not had one. Testing that system is certainly one of the smallsats main purposes.

The image at the link of the station and capsule docked together reveals how relatively small Tiangong-2 really is, compared to the Shenzhou manned spacecraft as well as other Russian single module stations. Shenzhou is about as long as Tiangong, and though the Chinese have made their manned capsule bigger than the Soyuz spacecraft they based it on, it isn’t that much bigger. In fact, the article says that the combined station and spacecraft is about 60 feet long. Russia’s Salyut stations, which were also a single module like Tiangong-2, were about that long, before the Soyuz was added.

In other words, Tiangong-2, as was Tiangong-1, are exactly what the Chinese have said they are, prototype testbeds for testing the engineering needed for building a much bigger multi-module station in 2020. What is unclear is whether the modules of that bigger station will be bigger as well.

China to launch next space station September 15

Despite the launch failure this week of a different rocket, China is moving forward with the launch of its second space station test module, Tiangong-2, now set for September 15.

Original built as a back up to Tiangong-1, TG-2 is expected to be identical in size to the previous Chinese station launched in 2011. Having an increased payload capacity, the new station will use its improved living conditions to verify key technologies, such as on-orbit propellant resupply using the new Tianzhou logistics vehicle. TG-2 will also be used to conduct space science experiments on a relatively large scale compared to China’s previous efforts. Tiangong-2 will also be equipped with a new robotic arm and will be accompanied by the small Banxing-2 satellite for technology demonstrations. It will also capture images of the new station in orbit.

Once in orbit China will then follow quickly with a 30 day manned mission.

China’s next manned mission

The competition heats up: The next Chinese manned mission will occur in the fall of 2016 and will have the astronauts remain in space for 30 days on a new space station launched during the summer.

After the astronauts have completed their flight, China will then launch their first unmanned cargo craft, dubbed Tianzhou-1, to dock with the station, using a new medium-lift rocket, Long March 7, which will get its first test flight this coming June.

China’s next space station will also receive unmanned freighters

The competition heats up: The chief engineer of China’s manned program revealed that they are building an unmanned cargo freighter for their next space station, Tiangong-2, with both scheduled for launch in 2016.

Essentially the Chinese are repeated the steps the Russians took, adding docking ports to each new station module. The second will have two docking ports, one for manned craft and the second for cargo. Later modules will have multiple ports to which additional modules can be added.

An update on the Chinese manned program.

An update on the Chinese manned program.

The original script called for [the space station] Tiangong 1 to be followed by Tiangong 2, which would have been a module of the same basic design as Tiangong 1. Tiangong 2 was expected to have tested more advanced life-support systems than Tiangong 1, but there would be no major changes to the spacecraft. It was expected that two or three crews would be launched to this module.

Towards the end of the decade, China would then launch Tiangong 3, which was slated to be an entirely different class of spacecraft. It would be larger and more capable. Tiangong 3 was expected by some analysts to be a precursor to the types of modules to be used in China’s future space station, slated for launch around 2020.

According to Yang’s presentation, we can forget about Tiangong 2. Or at least, we can forget about Tiangong 2 as it was originally planned. China still plans to launch a mission with this name, but it would seem that the large laboratory module originally known as “Tiangong 3” has now been designated as the new Tiangong 2.

In other words, China is accelerating the admittedly slow pace of their manned program.