The core module of China’s space station undergoes a vacuum test to simulate the conditions it will see in orbit.
The core module of China’s space station is packaged inside the nose cone of a heavy-lift Long March 5B rocket for liftoff late Wednesday (U.S. time), the first of 11 launches to deliver astronauts, supplies, experiments, and new laboratory modules to build out the orbiting complex before the end of 2022.
The massive Tianhe, or “Heavenly Harmony,” core module will be the keystone of the Chinese space station in low Earth orbit a few hundred miles above the planet, serving as astronaut living quarters, a command and control element, an airlock for spacewalks, and a docking port for attachment of future crew and cargo vehicles.
The fully-assembled outpost will be around 66 metric tons, about one-sixth the mass of the International Space Station, and is closer in size to Russia’s retired Mir station than the ISS. China will add two research modules to the space station in 2022.
The launch is scheduled for a one-hour period beginning at 11 p.m. EDT Wednesday (0300 GMT; 11 a.m. Beijing time Thursday), according to publicly-released airspace warning notices. Several sources suggest the launch ...