Image credit: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Central Television (CCTV)/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China rolled out to a launch pad Monday the combination Shenzhou-16 crewed spacecraft and the Long March 2F Yao-16 carrier rocket.

The three-person crew, still unnamed, will depart the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, reportedly on May 29-30.

According to China Daily, the Shenzhou-16 crew may comprise members of the third generation of the Chinese astronaut corps, civilians recruited from researchers and engineers. There are 17 men and one woman in this generation in three groups: seven spacecraft pilots, another seven as spaceflight engineers and the last four as payload specialists.

Image credit: CNSA/CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Now in Earth orbit, China’s station residents are mission commander, Major General Fei Junlong, Senior Colonel Deng Qingming and Senior Colonel Zhang Lu.

Mission readiness

Image credit: CNSA/CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The Shenzhou-16 crew members will be arriving soon to take part in the tests and rehearsal. The Shenzhou-16 spacecraft served as backup vessel for the Shenzhou-15 mission.

“First, we have fully restored the ground facilities and equipment and created rescue conditions for emergency launch. Second, before the transport of the combination, we worked with colleagues from all relevant departments to run a comprehensive and systematic review and re-examination, including running operational examinations, in order to fulfill the mission at our best,” said Wang Xuewu, deputy director of Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in a China Central Television (CCTV) interview.

Image credit: CGTN/Inside Outer Space screengrab

According to CCTV, the new crew will carry out spacewalks like their predecessors, and conduct scientific experiments and technology verification.

Station components

China plans to launch two crewed space missions and one or two cargo spacecraft into space every year, according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).

The now-orbiting Shenzhou-15 trio are occupants of the China space station, a T-shaped basic structure that has already accommodated four groups of taikonauts.  

Image credit: CGTN/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China’s Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) orbital outpost currently consists of three major components: the Tianhe core module and Wentian and Mengtian science lab modules. Also now part of the complex are the two visiting craft, the Shenzhou-15 crew ship and the Tianzhou 6 cargo ship.

China launched the Tianzhou-6 cargo spacecraft on May 10, which carried supplies for the Shenzhou-16 crew to the space station.

If all goes according to plan, the Shenzhou-17 crew will be launched in October.

For video of the Shenzhou-16 rollout, go to:

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