La station spatiale Tiangong

The Tianzhou cargo spacecraft has just docked with China’s Tiangong space station

After a 6.5-hour journey, the Tianzhou 4 cargo spacecraft has arrived at China’s Tiangong space station. Tianzhou 4 docked at Tianhe Module Port which is the main module of the station still under construction. The cargo ship was launched by a Long March 7 rocket that blasted off from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in Hainan province.

Tianzhou 4 is just over 10m long, and it carried a few tons of equipment, supplies, and fuel. Space experiments were also on board, these experiments being intended for the crew of the future Shenzhou 14 mission scheduled to join the station in a few weeks.

Tiangong space station
Credits China Manned Space Engineering Office

During the Shenzhou 14 mission, three Chinese astronauts will live and work for about 6 months in the Tianhe module. For the moment, we do not yet know any details about the launch.

A growing program

China is currently very active in the field of manned spaceflight. Since the launch of the Tianhe module in April 2021, it has already been visited by two crews. These were the Shenzhou 12 and Shenzhou 13 missions. The latter returned to Earth last month. Apart from the manned missions, the module has also already been visited by 3 cargo ships during the Tianzhou 2, 3 and 4 missions.

The first Tianzhou mission was launched in 2017 to supply China’s Tiangong 2 prototype space station. This station was intentionally destroyed in the Earth’s atmosphere in July 2019.

Future plans for Tiangong Station

China’s space program is now focused on setting up the new Tiangong space station. According to reports, China expects to complete its construction by the end of the year. This will still require 5 launches.

Among these launches, there will be two that will be used to put two new modules into orbit. These are Wentian and Mengtian modules. These will settle in Tianhe to form a set that will be about 20% of the size of the International Space Station.

With Tiangong, we can say that China is currently well placed in the space sector. According to Chinese officials, once completed, the station will be open to commercial activities and international astronauts.


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