China successfully launches space station lab module Mengtian
Cao Qingqing, Gong Zhe
China successfully launched Mengtian, the second lab module and the last major component of its space station, into orbit on Monday afternoon, getting a step closer to completing the space station by the end of this year.
A Long March-5B rocket carrying Mengtian blasted off at 15:37 (Beijing Time) from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in south China's Hainan Province.
About eight minutes later, the lab module separated from the carrier rocket and entered its preset orbit. The China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) declared the launch mission a complete success.
In the next couple of hours, Mengtian will rendezvous and dock with the in-orbit space station complex currently composed of the Tianhe core module and the Wentian lab module, according to the CMSA.
About the Mengtian lab module
Mengtian, which means "Dreams of Heaven," is the last "building block" that allows China's space station to form a T-shaped three-module structure.
The module is similar to Tianhe and Wentian in size and weight. It's 17.9 meters long, with a maximum diameter of 4.2 meters and a takeoff mass of about 23 tonnes.
It consists of a working cabin for astronauts, an airlock cabin, a payload cabin and a resource cabin.
Mengtian is mainly designed for scientific experiments. Unlike Tianhe and Wentian, it doesn't have a sleeping cabin. Instead, it's full of cabinets that can support hundreds of experiments.
The module will focus on microgravity scientific research. It is equipped with multi-disciplinary laboratory cabinets for experiments of fluid physics, materials and combustion science, basic physics and aerospace technology.