Three Chinese language astronauts had been greeted by three of their colleagues Tuesday as they floated into the Tiangong area station following a launch on a Lengthy March rocket earlier within the day, marking the primary time China’s area program has had six astronauts in orbit on the similar time.
The brand new arrivals docked with the Tiangong area station of their Shenzhou 15 spacecraft at 4:42 p.m. EST (2142 GMT) Tuesday, about six-and-a-half hours after launch from the Jiuquan area heart within the Gobi Desert of northwestern China. A Lengthy March 2F rocket took off in sub-freezing temperatures at 10:08 a.m. EST (1508 GMT) and powered off the pad with 1.4 million kilos of thrust.
The liquid-fueled launcher jettisoned its 4 strap-on boosters and first stage, and the Lengthy March’s second stage delivered the Shenzhou 15 spacecraft into orbit almost 10 minutes into the mission.
A digital camera contained in the Shenzhou 15 crew cabin confirmed commander Fei Junlong flanked by astronauts Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu because the rocket accelerated into low Earth orbit. The three-man spaceship prolonged its power-generating photo voltaic arrays moments after separating from the Lengthy March 2F rocket, setting the stage for a sequence of thruster firings to match orbits with the Tiangong area station.
Shenzhou 15 autonomously docked with the ahead port of the area station’s Tianhe core module because the autos soared at an altitude of some 240 miles (390 kilometers).
The arrival of Shenzhou 15 introduced the overall mass of the Tiangong area station to close 100 metric tons, its largest configuration but with two Shenzhou crew autos and a Tianzhou cargo ship docked. The Tiangong station is the second-largest spacecraft in orbit, solely exceeded by the 450-ton Worldwide House Station led by NASA and Russia’s area company.
Liftoff of China’s Lengthy March 2F rocket with the Shenzhou 15 mission, carrying a crew of three astronauts into orbit in pursuit of China’s Tiangong area station. https://t.co/kKiruS4ZKb pic.twitter.com/R0bGJBz1T6
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Fei, Deng, and Zhang opened hatches and floated into the Tianhe core module at 6:33 p.m. EST (2333 GMT) to hitch Chinese language astronauts Chen Dong, Liu Yang, and Cai Xuzhe, who arrived on the Tiangong station June 5 on the Shenzhou 14 spacecraft. The Shenzhou 14 astronauts took the place of the Shenzhou 13 mission that led to April. This time, the crew handover between the Shenzhou 14 and 15 astronauts is happening aboard the Tiangong area station.
Stay video from the area station confirmed the Shenzhou 14 and 15 astronauts greeting each other with hugs and handshakes, then posing for group photographs. The six astronauts will stay collectively on the station for 5 days earlier than Shenzhou 14’s departure Sunday, setting the stage for re-entry and touchdown in a distant area of the Gobi Desert.
Throughout their six-month mission, the Shenzhou 14 astronauts noticed the arrival of the second and third main components of the Tiangong area station. China launched the Wentian science lab July 24, then the Mengtian module Oct. 31. The modules initially docked with the ahead port of the station’s Tianhe core module, then had been moved to radial ports utilizing a robotic arm to offer the Tiangong outpost a particular “T” form.
China launched the unpiloted Tianzhou 5 cargo ship to the area station Nov. 12. The Shenzhou 14 astronauts additionally accomplished three spacewalks to additional outfit the area station.
“They witnessed many historic moments of China’s manned spaceflights,” mentioned Ji Qiming, assistant to the director of the China Manned House Company, talking concerning the Shenzhou 14 crew.
Chinese language officers revealed the identities of the astronauts on the Shenzhou 15 mission Monday. In distinction to the U.S. and Russian area packages, China sometimes retains its crew assignments secret till the day earlier than launch.
Fei, 57, commanded the Shenzhou 6 mission in 2005, China’s second crewed flight to low Earth orbit. He spent almost 5 days in orbit on Shenzhou 6 earlier than returning to area once more 17 years later.
“In the present day, I’m very proud and excited to have the ability to go to area once more for my nation,” Fei mentioned Monday briefly remarks to information media gathered on the Jiuquan launch web site. “Particularly after we are about to enter our personal Chinese language area station, I’m deeply proud and pleased with our nice motherland.”
“The Shenzhou 15 mission is just not solely the final of the development interval of China’s area station, but additionally the start of the subsequent new stage,” Fei mentioned. “In the course of the half-year flight, we’ll conduct extra on-orbit checks, and the operation, upkeep and restore of apparatus.”
Chinese language officers mentioned the Shenzhou 15 astronauts will head exterior the Tiangong area station for 3 or 4 spacewalks to finish duties that Fei described as “extra arduous” and “extra difficult” than earlier Chinese language spacewalks.
“Due to this fact, now we have carried out a number of focused coaching on the bottom,” mentioned Fei, a significant basic within the Chinese language Air Pressure. “By way of the coaching, we even have sufficient confidence to finish this key hyperlink between the previous and the long run.”
Fei and his crewmate Deng Qingming, a 56-year-old former Chinese language Air Pressure fighter pilot, had been chosen in China’s firstclass of astronauts in 1998. However Deng needed to wait a quarter-century for his first flight to area.
“We deeply know that it’s 1000’s of aerospace science and know-how employees who help us to fly,” Deng mentioned. “Right here, I wish to pay tribute to all Chinese language astronauts and thanks to your onerous work. We will certainly full this mission efficiently.”
Zhang, 46, is one other former fighter pilot within the Chinese language Air Pressure. He joined China’s astronaut corps in 2010, and Shenzhou 15 is his first area mission.
“I’m very a lot trying ahead to experiencing the great feeling introduced by weightlessness, very a lot trying ahead to constructing our personal area house as quickly as attainable with my very own fingers, and really a lot trying ahead to presenting the great thing about area in my eyes to all my family and friends members,” Zhang mentioned.
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Observe Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.
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