China’s Shenzhou-14 mission arrives at Tiangong space station for final construction

The country hopes to complete the spacecraft by the end of the year.

·1 min read
Stringer . / reuters

China’s Shenzhou-14 mission has successfully docked with the country's Tiangong space station on Sunday. According to CNN, the three-person crew of the spacecraft arrived at the Tianhe “Harmony of the Heavens” crew module at 5:42PM local time after launching from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert earlier in the day. The arrival marks the start of a six-month stay at the station for the mission’s astronauts that will see China attempt to make significant progress toward the completion of Tiangong.

The country hopes to finish building the station by the end of the year. Next month, it will launch the first of two lab modules that will expand Tiangong’s capabilities, with the latter to follow in October. The modules will allow Chinese astronauts to conduct microgravity and life science research. After the country completed its first-ever tandem spacewalk last year, the Shenzhou-14 crew will conduct multiple EVAs to prepare the station for expansion. Among the three astronauts is Liu Yang, the first Chinese woman to make it to space nearly a decade ago during the country’s Shenzhou-9 mission.

Once complete, the entire t-shaped structure will be about a fifth of the size of the International Space Station, with long-term accommodation for three astronauts. According to Reuters, China is exploring the possibility of allowing commercial space flights to visit Tiangong. It has also invited international space agencies to visit the station. The successful launch of Shenzhou-14 caps off a busy week in space travel, with NASA preparing to begin testing its next-generation SLS rocket again and Blue Origin successfully completing its fifth crewed flight on Saturday.