China prepares to send new 3-person crew to space station - GulfToday

China prepares to send new 3-person crew to space station


Chinese astronauts for the upcoming Shenzhou-15 mission Zhang Lu (left), Fei Junlong and Deng Qingming wave during a meeting of the press at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China on Monday. AP

Final preparations were being made on Monday to send a new three-person crew to China's space station as it nears completion amid intensifying competition with the United States.

The China Manned Space Agency said the Shenzhou-15 mission will take off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on the edge of the Gobi Desert at 11:08pm on Tuesday night.


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The six-month mission, commanded by Fei Junlong and crewed by Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu, will be the last "in the construction phase of China’s space station,” agency official Ji Qiming told reporters Monday.

Fei, 57, is a veteran of the 2005 four-day Shenzhou-6 mission which was the second in which China sent a human into space. Deng and Zhang are flying in space for the first time.

The Long March-2F rocket is transferred to the launching area at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Reuters

The station’s third and final module docked with the station earlier this month, one of the last steps in a more than decade-long effort to maintain a constant crewed presence in orbit.

The astronauts will overlap briefly onboard the station, named Tiangong, with the previous crew, who arrived in early June for a six-month stay.

Tiangong has room to accommodate six astronauts at a time. Previous missions to the space station have taken about 13 hours from liftoff to docking.

Next year, China plans to launch the Xuntian space telescope, which, while not part of Tiangong, will orbit in sequence with the station and can dock occasionally with it for maintenance.

No other future additions to the space station have been publicly announced.

The permanent Chinese station will weigh about 66 tons - a fraction of the International Space Station, which launched its first module in 1998 and weighs around 465 tons.

Associated Press




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