Cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1 approaching Tiangong-2 for docking
China's cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1 is now approaching the Tiangong-2 space lab, preparing for the first docking later on Saturday.
The procedure comes two days after Tianzhou-1 blasted off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in south China's Hainan Province at 7:41 p.m. local time on Thursday.
The Tianzhou-1 mission is seen as a key step in China’s efforts to establish a permanent manned space station by 2022.
The spacecraft’s main task is to dock with the orbiting Tiangong-2 space lab and refuel it to verify the in-orbit transfer of liquid propellant technology, a crucial operation for resupplying a future space station.
Tianzhou-1 is set to dock with the orbiting Tiangong-2 three times during its mission, each time testing refueling procedures.
A six-hour fast automated rendezvous and docking procedure will also be tested during the mission. The whole docking process is estimated to take about two months.
Tiangong-2 was launched into space in September and welcomed two astronauts a month later for 30 days – China’s longest manned mission in space to date. At present however, the space lab is unmanned.
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