China Launches Second Module for Tiangong-3 Space Station

China Launches Second Module for Tiangong-3 Space Station

China launched the second of three modules for its Tiangong-3 space station early this morning EDT.  Named Wentian, it is one of two laboratory modules that together with the Tianhe core module launched last year will comprise the approximately 70 Metric Ton space station. Still small compared to the 420 MT International Space Station, it nonetheless is a significant step forward for China’s human spaceflight program.

Wentian was launched on a Long March 5B rocket from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island.

China’s Xinhua news agency did not report the launch time, but Jonathan McDowell (@planet4589) puts it at 06:22:31 UTC, which is 2:22:31 am EDT and 2:22:31  pm local time at the launch site.

Wentian docked to Tianhe at 3:13 pm EDT (3:13 am July 25 Beijing Time).

The second laboratory module, Mengtian, is expected to launch in October.  Each module is 22.5 MT.

Tiangong-3, also called the China Space Station, is resupplied by cargo ships called Tianzhou. Crews are launched on Shenzhou spacecraft. The three person Shenzhou-14 crew is now aboard and Tianzhou-4 also is docked there.

Illustration of the completed China Space Station (Tiangong-3) from a booklet provided by China to the U.N. Committee on Peaceful Uses of Outer Space in 2018 seeking international experiments.

The Shenzhou-14 crew will still be aboard when their replacements arrive this fall, the first crew exchange for China’s space program.


This article has been updated.

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