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China’s new space station module, Wentian, successfully docks

Tiangong space station. Credit: China’s Manned Spaceflight

Edinburgh, 26 July 2022. – China has successfully docked Wentian, the second module of its Tiangong space station to the first, Tianhe section, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said.

The rendezvous and docking process with the forward port of Tianhe went smoothly, taking approximately 13 hours. Wentian will be moved to a side port with the help of the module’s 10-meter-long robotic arm. The new spacecraft will serve as a science module as well as an expansion of living quarters. The addition enables Tiangong to accommodate up to six crew members during handovers.

The first stage of the Long March 5B rocket, carrying the module, will re-enter Earth’s atmosphere uncontrolled. Last year, the core of such a rocket landed in the Indian Ocean, while a year earlier, it landed on Ivory Coast. China has been criticised by nations for not being transparent, not providing trajectory or other data regarding these re-entries. Uncontrolled spacecraft falling back to the planet’s surface can cause potential damage to houses, infrastructure and might even harm humans.

The two-module space station currently orbits somewhat below the International Space Station, at an altitude of 381 km. CNSA is planning to launch Mengtian, the third and final module of Tiangong in October.

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