China Launches Two Crew Members to Tiangong-2 Space Station – UPDATE

China Launches Two Crew Members to Tiangong-2 Space Station – UPDATE

UPDATE, October 18, 2016, 3:40 pm EDT:   The two astronauts just successfully docked with Tiangong-2.

ORIGINAL STORY, October 16, 2016, EDT: Two Chinese astronauts were successfully launched to
China’s Tiangong-2 space station tonight.  They are expected to dock in
two days.

The Long March 2F rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan
Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi desert on time at 7:30 pm Eastern
Daylight Time (7:30 am Monday, October 17, local time at the launch
site) sending the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft into orbit.

Liftoff of Shenzhou-11 on a Long March 2F rocket from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, October 16, 2016 EDT.  Photo credit:  CCTV

Aboard are astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong.  Jing, 50, is on his third spaceflight and is commander of the mission; Chen, 38, is on his first spaceflight.  The two men will remain aboard Tiangong-2 for 30 days after docking.

Jing Haipeng, Shenzhou-11 commander.  Photo credit: Xinhua

Shenzhou-11 astronaut Chen Dong. Photo credit: Xinhua

The two men will conduct a variety of experments during their 30 days on Tiangong 2, including taking ultrasound measurements for the first time in space, cultivating plants, and testing the three winners of an experimental design competition in Hong Kong for secondary students, according to Xinhua.

China provided little information about the mission until yesterday.

Although Chinese sources initially indicated this is the first of two two-man crews that will occupy Tiangong-2, more recent indications are that it will be the only one.  The next launch to the small 8.6 metric ton space station is scheduled for April 2017.  It is China’s first cargo resupply spacecraft, Tianzhou-1, which will be launched on a Long March 7 from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island.  It reportedly will conduct a refueling test.


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