Shenzhou-13 crew enters central cabin of China’s Tianhe space station

Shenzhou-13 crew

The three taikonauts aboard the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft entered the central module of the country’s space station, Tianhe on Saturday, according to the Chinese Space Agency (CMSA).

After Shenzhou-13 successfully completed a quick automated rendezvous and docking with the Tianhe orbiting module, the Shenzhou-13 crew Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping, and Ye Guangfu entered the Tianhe orbital capsule, marking the country’s second crew to enter China’s Tianhe space station. basic cabin.

Like everyone else when they first entered their new home, the first thing the Shenzhou-13 team did was check out their cozy and cozy rooms and connect to the Wi-Fi. Live video shows that Zhai, who was the first to enter, was so involved and excited to settle down that he was floating upside down in the air. The three then set up the wireless headphones for the space-Earth talks.

After a brief conversation reporting their safety to the ground control center, the crew will soon have their very first lunch in their new home, said Yang Liwei, director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office and the country’s first astronaut.

Among the three new residents are the country’s first astronaut Zhai Zhigang, the first female taikonaut to enter her own space station Wang Yaping, and the first taikonaut who was trained in an international space agency Ye Guangfu. They will stay in space for six months, double the time of the Shenzhou-12 crew.

They are expected to return to Earth in April 2022, which means they will celebrate a special and unforgettable Chinese Lunar New Year in space.

They are tasked with performing two to three extravehicular activities, better known as spacewalks. Wang Yaping will participate in at least one spacewalk, becoming the first Chinese woman to achieve such a feat, the Global Times learned from insiders of the mission.

According to CMSA, they are also expected to install transfer gears connecting the large and small robotic arms and associated suspension gears for future construction work.

The Shenzhou-13 manned spacecraft successfully docked at the central cabin of China’s Tianhe space station early Saturday morning, after a quick automated rendezvous, or as researchers call it, the “space waltz.”

The rendezvous and docking took place at 6:56 a.m. on Saturday morning, half past six after traveling aboard a Long March-2F carrier rocket from the Jiuquan satellite launch center in northern Gansu province. -west China), announced the Chinese Space Agency (CMSA). in a statement sent to the Global Times.

Docked at the bottom of Tianhe’s central cabin from a radial direction, the spacecraft safely and smoothly delivered the second batch of residents to the Chinese space station.

A combined flight has been formed, consisting of Tianhe’s main cabin in the center, and Shenzhou-13 manned craft, and Tianzhou-2 and -3 cargo craft on the side, CMSA said.

According to the spacecraft developers of the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), they have designed a new rendezvous path and a new circular flight mode to support fast docking in the radial direction.

As beautiful as the “space waltz” was, it was much more difficult than the fore and aft docking with Tianhe’s central cabin like the Shenzhou-12, Tianzhou-2 and -3 missions had done. “For the fore and aft moorings there is a 200 meter stopping point for the craft, allowing them to maintain a stable attitude in orbit even when the engines are not running. However, the radial rendezvous is not has no such stopping point halfway, and it requires continuous monitoring of attitude and orbit, ”CAST said in a note to the Global Times.

He added that during the radial rendezvous, the spacecraft must transition from level flight to vertical flight with a wide range of attitude maneuvers, posing difficult challenges in the “eyes” of the aircraft. gear to see the target in time and ensure that the “eyes” will not be disturbed by complex lighting changes.

The success of this new docking method would be another sign of China’s spacecraft docking capabilities, experts noted.

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