First crew members in new space station
China is all set to send the first three crew members to its new space station for three months on 17 June 2021 morning, the country's space agency announced on 16 June 2021. The spaceship, Shenzhou-12, with three male astronauts will be launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre. The spaceship will take Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo into space for the construction of China's space station. This will be the first manned mission during the construction of the space station.
- After entering the orbit, the spaceship will conduct a fast automated rendezvous and docking with the in-orbit space station core module Tianhe, forming a complex with the core module and the cargo craft Tianzhou-2.
- The astronauts aboard Shenzhou-12 will be stationed in the core module and remain in orbit for three months.
- The launch will be carried out with a Long March-2F carrier rocket, which will be filled with propellant on 16 June 2021 morning.
- China launched its space station core module Tianhe on 29 April 2021. After this China now plans to complete the verification of key technologies and the in-orbit construction of the space station through multiple launches within two years.
- The space station still under construction is expected to be ready by next year.
- China's space station has been equipped with a robotic arm over which the US has raised concerns for its possible military applications.
- The Chinese space station is expected to be a competitor to the ageing International Space Station (ISS), which is a modular space station in low Earth orbit.
- The ISS is a multinational collaborative project involving five participating space agencies -- NASA (US), Roscomos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe) and CSA (Canada).
- China's Tiangong is expected to be the sole space station once the ISS retires.