Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

 

China is readying its next step in fully-commissioning the country’s space station.

A Long March 2F (CZ-2F) Y15 booster topped by the Shenzhou-15 piloted spacecraft was vertically transferred to the launching area on Monday. The launch is reportedly headed for a November 29 departure from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

Various pre-launch function and joint tests will be carried out prior to takeoff.

Traveling less than a mile (1.5 kilometers) on the seamless rail especially built to prevent vibrations, the move of the rocket/spacecraft from the assembly test building took roughly one and a half hours.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Launch drill

“Before the transfer, we have successfully completed the function checks of the rocket, the general checks and test of matching, the comprehensive electrical test of the spaceship, fueling and installing payload fairing to the rocket in the technical area,” said Shen Tingzheng, an expert in test and launch technologies at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

At present, the rocket and the spaceship are in good condition and ready for the launch stage, Shen told China Central Television (CCTV). “After the rocket-spaceship combo is transferred to the launching area, we will continue to carry out function checks, air tightness tests, the launch drill of the whole system and the on-site confirmation of astronauts and fill the rocket with propellant,” Shen said.

Artistic view of current T-shape configuration of China space station.
Credit: CNSA/CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

What’s ahead?

The construction of China’s space station has entered the final stage, with two tightly scheduled missions by the end of this year to complete the space station, reports CCTV. They are the launch of the Shenzhou-15 piloted mission and the return of the Shenzhou-14 crew from the space station.

The three Shenzhou-14 crew members, who were sent to the space station on June 5 of this year for a six-month mission, are expected to come back to Earth in early December.

That Shenzhou-14 crew will welcome the arrival of the Shenzhou-15 crewed spacecraft at the space station later this month. The combination of crews totaling six taikonauts are slated to push forward the final phase of station construction by the end of the year.

At this stage, China will perform its first-ever crew rotation as the now-orbiting Shenzhou-14 team departs for Earth.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Smart rockets

“Going forward, we will surely see heavier manned spacecrafts, which requires us to further increase manned carrier rockets’ carrying capacity,” said Liu Feng, deputy chief designer of Long March-2F rocket.

Liu told CCTV that secondly, “we should further elevate the fault tolerance capacity for the whole process in the air. We are building smart rockets.”

The third step is reuse. “For manned carrier rockets, we still need greater technological innovation and progress on how to reuse them,” Liu said.

China enters final stage of constructing the country’s space station.
Credit: CMS/CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Safety of crew

Liu added that Chinese engineers have not only added redundancy for the components of the Long March-2F rocket, but made two such rockets for every launch mission in order to ensure the safety and rescue of astronauts in the event of a mission emergency.

Liu noted that they will closely monitor the rocket’s condition to ensure the success of the upcoming Shenzhou-15 launch mission.

“After the rocket is transferred to the launch area, we will conduct thorough checks about the functioning of its various systems. After that, we will conduct interface matching between the rocket and the spacecraft, and carry out launch drills. At present, the rocket is in a very good shape,” said Liu.

For just-issued videos showing the Long March 2F (CZ-2F) Y15/Shenzhou-15 combination arriving at the launching area, go to:

https://youtu.be/SJnHaYUZ8ug

https://youtu.be/1p15tRLIgxU

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