Weeks, after it completed the construction of its Tiangong space station, the Chinese space agency, is set to launch three taikonauts into space. The Shenzhou-15 mission will be launched onboard the Long March -2F carrier rocket, which was recently brought into open view.
While the rocket has been moved to the launch area, the Chinese Manned Space Agency (CMSA) has remained tight-lipped on the launch date. CGTN reported that following the arrival of the Shenzhou-15 mission on the launch pad, the facilities and equipment at the launch site are in good condition.
The Chinese space agency is now engaged in various pre-launch function checks and joint tests that need to be carried out before Chinese astronauts set foot onboard for a six-month-long mission in the zero-gravity laboratory. The three taikonauts will replace the other three living on the Tiangong.
There will be a brief period during which the space station will house all six taikonauts. “The handover works will last about five to ten days. After that, the Shenzhou-14 crew will come home aboard the Shenzhou-14 spacecraft,” Gao Xu, chief designer of the manned spacecraft general system at China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), was quoted as saying by CGTN.
Meanwhile, Xiao Xuedi, the managing designer of the spacecraft said, “We need to identify each of the ships during signal transmission. We have done thorough simulations to get ready for the new mission.”
The Shenzhou 14 crew was launched to Tiangong earlier this year, where they oversaw the addition of two laboratory modules to join the main Tianhe living space. Commander Chen Dong and fellow astronauts Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe assembled the three-module structure joining the existing Tianhe with Wentian and Mengtian modules.
China’s space program launched its first astronaut into orbit in 2003, making it only the third country to do so on its own after the former Soviet Union and the U.S. China’s space program is run by the ruling Communist Party’s military wing, the People’s Liberation Army, prompting the US to exclude it from the International Space Station.
Beijing has landed robot rovers on the moon and placed one on Mars last year. China has also returned lunar samples and officials have discussed a possible crewed mission to the moon.