The second space station crew will be launched soon

The Shenzhou XIII spacecraft and the Long March 2F aircraft rocket will be moved Thursday from a test facility to a launch tower at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. (Photo by WANG JIANGBO / for China Daily)

China will soon complete its Shenzhou XIII manned spaceflight and send three astronauts to stay in the country’s Tiangong space station for six months.

The long March 2F aircraft rocket that will launch the Shenzhou XIII spacecraft this month was moved to a launch tower at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China’s Gobi Desert on Thursday morning. It will receive final inspection in the coming days, China Manned Space Agency said.

During the Shenzhou XIII mission, the astronauts, whose names are not yet known, will be tasked mainly with demonstrating and testing key technologies involved in the assembly and future operations of the Chinese space station, according to mission planners at the agency.

Like their peers in the Shenzhou XII mission, they will perform spacewalks to test the robotic arm and other instruments for extravehicular activities and will also perform scientific experiments to gather experience for the station’s construction and operation, planners said.

Shenzhou XIII will be the fourth spacecraft to visit China’s permanent space station, called Tiangong or Heavenly Palace, and the second crew ship to transport astronauts to the circulating outpost.

The first astronauts to stay in Tiangong, Major General Nie Haisheng, Major General Liu Boming and Colonel Tang Hongbo, completed their 92-day Shenzhou XII mission in mid-September.

They lived in Tiangong for 90 days and made two spacewalks to use a large robot arm and other equipment to install and adjust devices outside the station.

One of China’s most challenging and sophisticated space endeavors, Tiangong will consist of three main components – a core module attached to two space laboratories – with a total weight of almost 70 tons. The station’s core module – Tianhe, or Harmony of Heavens – was lifted by a long March 5B heavylift rocket from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan Province in late April.

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