China’s Lengthy March 5B heavy elevate rocket launched with a brand new area station module – Spaceflight Now

The Lengthy March 5B rocket, scheduled to launch the Wentian Module to China’s area station, lifted off from the meeting constructing on the Wenchang Launch Base on Hainan Island on Monday. Credit score: CMSE

China on Monday moved its heavy-lift Lengthy March 5B rocket with its 22-ton module to the nation’s Tiangong area station in preparation for liftoff this weekend. huge essential stage.

The highly effective rocket rolled onto the launch pad from the meeting constructing on the Wenchang Launch Middle on the southern Chinese language island of Hainan on Monday. The Ventian module for China’s area station is contained throughout the rocket’s payload fairing.

The Lengthy March 5B rocket is about to launch at 2:20 a.m. EDT (0620 GMT) on July 24, in line with aerospace alerts related to the mission. That is additionally the approximate time the Tiangong area station orbiter handed over the Wenchang Launch Middle.

The Wentian Module, weighing about 44,000 kilos (20 metric tons), will hook up with the Tianhe Nuclear Module at China’s Tiangong Station in low Earth orbit. Chinese language astronauts Chen Dong, Liu Yang, and Cai Xueje, who stay within the Tiangong Advanced, will look ahead to Wentian’s arrival and would be the first crew members to sail into the station’s new module.

This weekend’s launch will add the second of three massive pressurized modules wanted to finish preliminary building of the Tiangong area station. The Tianhe nuclear module was launched on a Lengthy March 5B rocket in April 2021, and Chinese language floor groups are making ready the Mengtian module for launch on a Lengthy March 5B rocket in October.

The Wentian module carries a small robotic arm designed for extra exact actions than the bigger arm situated outdoors the principle Tianhe module. The Wentian module will primarily conduct life science and organic experiments, Chinese language officers stated.

A Lengthy March 5B rocket carrying a module from China’s Wentian House Station heads to the launch pad on the Wenchang House Middle on Hainan Island on Monday. Credit score: CMSE

The Wentian module first docks with the pivot port of the Tianhe module, a docking mechanism cleared by the departure of the approaching cargo ship Tianzhou. Tianhe’s mechanical arm strikes the module to its last place on the facet of the principle physique of the area station.

The Mengtian module, scheduled for launch on the finish of this 12 months, will even arrive on the Tiangong area station in the identical approach. After Wentian and Mengtian are of their last positions, the Chinese language station can have a particular “T” form with three essential dominant parts.

On the launch pad to ship the Wentian module into orbit, the Lengthy March 5B and Wenchang Chinese language groups will full last pre-flight checks and assessments within the last hours earlier than loading the rocket with kerosene, liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen fuels. Sunday.

Ten engines fireplace to propel the 176-foot-tall (53.7-meter) Lengthy March 5B rocket into the sky with 2.4 million kilos of thrust.

The Lengthy March 5B rocket is a variant of China’s strongest launcher, the Lengthy March 5, which flies with out the higher stage wanted to position payloads into excessive orbits or ship spacecraft to the Moon or Mars. On the Lengthy March 5B, the higher stage was changed with an expanded payload quantity to accommodate bigger modules for the Chinese language area station.

This implies the Lengthy March 5B rocket can attain a low-altitude orbit utilizing 4 kerosene-fueled belt boosters and a hydrogen-fueled core stage. On two earlier Lengthy March 5B flights, together with final 12 months’s Tianhe core module launch, the core stage remained in low orbit after deploying its payloads.

The mission patch for the launch of the Ventian module reveals the lab ingredient being positioned within the axial port of the Tianhe nuclear module, earlier than being repositioned by a robotic arm into the side-facing port. Credit score: CMSE

The primary levels of earlier Lengthy March 5B missions re-entered the environment per week or two after launch. Lengthy March 5B’s essential stage is about 100 ft (30 meters) lengthy and has an empty mass of about 23.8 tons (21.6 metric tons), making it one of many largest and largest man-made objects to re-enter the environment. in an uncontrolled method.

After the launch and re-entry of the latest Lengthy March 5B final 12 months, NASA Administrator Invoice Nelson stated China was “failing to satisfy accountable requirements relating to their area particles.”

“House nations should reduce the dangers to individuals and property on Earth from re-entry of area objects and enhance transparency relating to these operations,” Nelson stated in a press release final 12 months.

Chinese language International Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin stated at a press convention final 12 months that it was “regular apply” for rockets to expend on re-entry. He mislabeled the Lengthy March 5B missile’s hull as an higher stage, saying “most of its components expend on re-entry, making the chance of injury to aviation or floor services and operations extraordinarily low.”

However no different launcher on this planet leaves such a big element in orbit to fall again to Earth. Lifeless satellites and previous rocket levels commonly reenter the environment, however reentry of objects bigger than a couple of tons is uncommon.

Artist’s impression of China’s Tiangong House Station because it seems after building is full. Credit score: CCTV

The bigger booster and cores utilized in different rockets usually fall again to Earth earlier than reaching orbit, normally in areas under the flight deck and away from people.

Like most area particles that returns to the environment, many of the Lengthy March 5B rocket burns up on re-entry when temperatures attain 1000’s of levels. Nonetheless, some fragments could attain the floor of the Earth intact.

Missile fragments have a low danger of damage to individuals or property, and objects could fall into the ocean or populated areas. However in 2020, the uncontrolled re-entry of the primary Lengthy March 5B essential stage unfold particles on the Ivory Coast. Lengthy March 5B’s reentry befell over the Indian Ocean final 12 months.

With no modifications to the design, the Lengthy March 5B rockets used to launch the Wentian module on Sunday and the Mengtian module will probably be re-entered unguided. Airspace warning messages issued to pilots for this weekend’s Ventian flight don’t point out any re-entry zone for the principle stage, which is able to stay in orbit for an uncontrolled descent within the days or perhaps weeks after launch.

The Chinese language area station orbits 236 miles (380 kilometers) above Earth at an inclination of 41.5 levels to the equator. The orbiting Lengthy March 5B essential stage means it might fall anyplace between 41.5 levels north and south latitude.

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Observe Stephen Clarke on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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