China Launches Tianzhou-4 Cargo Spacecraft to Aid Construction of Space Station

According to the China Manned Space Agency, the Tianzhou-4 cargo spacecraft successfully completed status setting after entering orbit. At 8:54 Beijing time on May 10, 2022, it adopted the autonomous rapid rendezvous and docking mode and docked with Tianhe, the core module of China’s new Tiangong space station.

At 01:56 on Tuesday, the Long March-7 Y5 carrier rocket with the Tianzhou-4 cargo craft took off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in South China’s tropical island province of Hainan. About 10 minutes later, the spacecraft successfully separated from the rocket and entered the scheduled orbit. At 2:23, the solar panels of the spacecraft started working smoothly and the launch was a complete success.

“Tianzhou-4 is the first spacecraft in China to enter the construction stage of the space station. It is loaded with more than 200 pieces (sets) of goods, and the total weight of goods is about 6,000 kg. The craft is responsible for providing material support for Shenzhou 14 astronauts and space station on-orbit operation and space science experiments,” said Dang Rong, the deputy chief designer of the craft.

This is the 22nd launch mission of China’s manned spaceflight project, the first launch mission of the space station construction from the key technology verification stage to the on-orbit construction stage, and the 420th flight of Long March Carrier Rockets.

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Unlike the Shenzhou manned spacecraft, the Tianzhou cargo spacecraft is regarded as the “deliveryman” for the space station. Its main task is to carry cargo and replenish materials for the space station. After that, it will also take away waste from the space station to help keep it clean.

The Long March 7 carrier rocket is a new generation of medium-sized carrier rockets developed to meet the launch mission for cargo spacecraft in China’s manned space station. The center core of the rocket is 3.35 meters in diameter with four 2.25-meter-diameter side boosters. The 600-metric-ton rocket is able to propel 13.5 tons into a low earth orbit.