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China Makes Final Preps For Tiangong-2, Countdown To Launch

First Posted: Sep 12, 2016 05:50 AM EDT
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The launch of China's newest space laboratory, the Tiangong-2 (lit. Heavenly Palace) is just around the corner, as scientists are making final preparations to ensure the rocket is healthy and in an optimal level before getting into orbit. According to Space Daily, Tiangong-2's launch window will start on September 15, which it says will probably be the actual launch date, the window extends up to September 20.

State broadcaster CCTV News has reported that launch systems for Tiangong 2 and its carrier rocket, the Long March 2F, have already been tested at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern province of Gansu. The information leading up to the launch has been scant, but CCTV says Tiangong-2 is a "more advanced" space lab with a cargo ship, unlike its predecessor, Tiangong-1, China's first prototype space lab designed to be a "target vehicle" for experiments.

Tiangong-2 is also designed to support at least two astronauts with a month of supplies, with the first visitors coming from the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft set to blast off after Tiangong-2 gets into orbit. It will also carry payloads jointly developed by the National Space Science Center at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the University of Geneva from Switzerland.

CCTV also says the new space lab will carry out 14 experiments on space materials science and astrobiological research. It will operate much longer than its predecessor, which is designed for a two-year service. 

China says Tiangong-2 is part of its Tiangong space program, which will see the space station, Tiangong-3, entering into service in 2022. Tiangong-3 is planned to have a core module design with two lab units. It will further develop the space science research done by its predecessors.

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