A few hours ago the Chinese Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft docked to the Tianhe core module of the Chinese space station successfully completing an automated maneuver. Tianzhou-2 was launched a few hours earlier atop a Long March-7 Y3 rocket from the Wenchang site. This is the first space cargo spacecraft launched towards the new Chinese space station, carrying propellant and supplies for the taikonauts, as the Chinese call their astronauts, who will start working on the station starting in mid-June, according to plan.
China had already tested the technologies needed for the development of its cargo spacecraft in the Tianzhou-1 mission, launched on April 20, 2017, to dock with the Tiangong-2 space laboratory two days later. For five months, Tianzhou-1 remained in orbit to test its resistance to the conditions existing in space and to test various tasks needed in cargo spacecraft missions. This means that docking maneuvers and propellant transfer tests were conducted. It was also used to carry out some scientific experiments in orbit.
The new Tianzhou-2 spacecraft will have to perform similar tasks and is only the first of the refueling missions that will be needed over the next few years, as a crew is scheduled to remain on board with continuity. This means that safety in maneuvers is a priority and sending the first space freighter before the arrival of taikonauts allows the first tests to be conducted without anyone on board.
The Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft carries about 6,500 kilograms of supplies including nearly 2,000 kilograms of propellant and the rest of supplies and other materials that will be needed for the work on the space station whose Tianhe core module was launched on April 29, 2021. Tianzhou-2 will remain docked with Tianhe for a few months. The Shenzhou-12 mission is scheduled to launch in mid-June with the first taikonauts who will live and work on the Tianhe space station. This will represent the next step in China’s ambitious space program, which continues with its progress.