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Tech Please: Where can you find fruits in space?


 , Updated 15:00, 23-Jan-2024

Editor's note: "Tech Please!" takes a brief look at all things science and technology in China, revealing trends you won't hear about anywhere else, from cutting-edge developments to the bizarre and whimsical in the world's most exciting tech market.

If you're hitchhiking across the Milky Way and happen to get struck with an immense craving to have some fruits, what do you do? The answer is simple – head to the China Space Station, because that is where the world's largest cargo spacecraft, Tianzhou-7, has delivered the latest batch of supplies, which include 90 kilograms of fruits!

Chinese spacecraft, especially cargo spacecraft that carry propellants, scientific payloads and other essentials for the taikonauts, are growing in capabilities with each launch. Tianzhou-6 brought 70 kg, more than doubled than the previous one. This time, the Tianzhou-7 brought 90 kg – enough to meet the needs of both Shenzhou-17 and Shenzhou-18 crews during their in-orbit stay.

But there are many exciting facts surround this latest cargo mission. 

First of all, Tianzhou-7 is the first spacecraft to visit the China Space Station this year. 

This time, the entire rendezvous and docking mission only took about three hours. It's a balance between efficiency and security, compared with 6.5 hours in previous missions, but not as fast as the record two hours during the launch of Tianzhou-5 in 2022.

Moreover, thanks to an improved payload capacity, Tianzhou cargo spacecraft now only need to deliver goods three times every two years instead of twice a year – once before each manned mission.

China designed and produced the Tianzhou-6 to -11 cargo spacecraft in the same batch with increased cargo volume to 22.5 cubic meters, capable of carrying 6.7 tonnes of cargo each time, and the entire ship's loading capacity is now at 7.4 tonnes. 

The increased cargo space comes from the fuel tanks that have been cut down to four as the station does not require as much propellant for attitude adjustment during its construction period.

Now, if you look at the spacecraft's body metrics, it's 10.65 meters in length and has a diameter of 3.35 meters for the cargo module, also the widest part of the spacecraft – that's bigger than a medium-sized bus.

Will there be more changes in the future? Maybe. 

The Tianzhou spacecraft are designed in a modular way to form different variations. Currently the cargo module is all pressurized for cargo delivery, but it can also be made as semi-pressurized or fully opened for delivering large experimental payloads, extravehicular maintenance spare parts such as solar array wings, or to transport expansion segments for the space station.

Tech Please: Where can you find fruits in space?

Compared to other cargo spacecraft in the world, Tianzhou is surely the most capable one. But currently it cannot be recovered or reused, and that's where SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft takes the lead. But worry not, we'll catch up.

Not to miss, the Chinese New Year is around the corner, and our Shenzhou-17 crew will celebrate the festival in space! This time, Tianzhou-7 spacecraft has also brought them some "blind gift boxes" that will be opened on the Chinese New Year's Eve. 

Scriptwriter and host: Zhao Chenchen

Copy editor: Moosa Abbas

Cameraman: Yang Ze

Post production: Zhao Yuxiang

3D designer: Pan Yongzhe

Cover image designer: Yin Yating

Producer: Cao Qingqing

Chief editors: Wen Yaru, Wu Gang

Executive producer: Zhang Shilei

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