China completes pre-launch testing for first space station lab module Wentian

China successfully completed a whole-system testing for the upcoming launch of its space station laboratory module Wentian on Friday, as the country is on the track of completing the construction of its space station by the end of the year. The pre-launch test was aimed at assessing the functionality and performance of the Wentian, scheduled to be sent into space later this month, and its carrier rocket as well as the launch procedure.

The test involved the Beijing Aerospace Control Center, the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in south China’s Hainan Province, the Xi’an Satellite Control Center in northwest China’s Shaanxi Province, and all the monitoring stations and vessels related to the launch.

“Today’s joint test went on quite smoothly. Next, we will be launching the Wentian lab module as planned and controlling its subsequent docking with the space station combination,” said Yang Yanbo, deputy commander for Wentian lab module launch mission at the Beijing Aerospace Control Center.

The Wentian, which literally means “quest for the heavens”, will form the second part of China’s three-module Tiangong space station. The module and a Long March-5B Y3 carrier rocket has been transported to the launch pad at the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Hainan.

Friday’s test focused on environmental evaluation, such as high-altitude wind direction and speed, electric field and cumulus cloud evolution in the air, with the final analysis showing that the recent meteorological conditions are suitable for the upcoming launch mission.

Other pre-launch functional checks for the carrier rocket and preparations have also been completed.

“Since the mission entered the key refuelling stage, all systems have undergone continued checks. At present, all the systems including the Long March-5B Y3 rocket, the Wentian lab module and the launch site are in good conditions and are in orderly preparation for the upcoming mission,” said Zhong Wen’an, chief engineer with the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, which administers the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site.

“All data of the systems are relatively consistent with those we had in the development stage. The entire Wentian system works quite normally in functionality and performance. We are fully prepared for the launch,” said Liao Jianlin, deputy chief designer of space station systems at the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

The three Shenzhou-14 astronauts, who were sent into space on June 5 for the continued construction of the Tiangong space station, are in the middle of sorting the supplies sent by the Tianzhou-3 cargo spacecraft and have conducted training on manual rendezvous and docking operations.

The Tianzhou-3 undocked from the space station combination on July 17, leaving the front docking port of the Tianhe core module for the upcoming Wentian lab module.

China’s space station will be expanded from the foundational core module Tianhe into a basic T-shaped three-module structure by the end of this year, with Tianhe in the center and the two lab modules Wentian and Mengtian on each side of it.

The Wentian is equipped with the same astronaut living facilities as the Tianhe, including three sleeping areas, a toilet and a kitchen. Its launch will be followed by the launch of the Mengtian lab module in October.

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