Chinese cargo spacecraft completes automated fast-docking with space lab.
Credit: CCTV

China’s intent to put in place a permanent space station in the 2020’s was bolstered late Tuesday by an automated fast-docking between the Tianzhou-1 cargo ship and the uncrewed Tiangong-2 space lab.

According to China’s Xinhua news agency, this third docking between the two craft took six and a half hours. Two previous dockings took about two days.

The Tianzhou-1 supply ship was lofted on April 20 of this year. It performed the first and second docking with the orbiting Tiangong-2 space lab on April 22 and June 19, respectively.

China’s cargo ship right approaches Tiangong-2 space lab in artist’s view.
Credit: CMSE

Refueling ahead

The cargo spacecraft will conduct the third refueling of the space lab before nose-diving to Earth.

Tiangong-2 has been orbiting Earth since launch on September 15, 2016.

As Xinhua explains, China is the third country, after Russia and the United States, to master refueling techniques in space, “which is crucial in the building of a permanent space station.”

Credit: CCTV

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