Live aboard China's Tiangong-2 Space Lab. Shenzhou-11 astronauts are able to watch daily TV shows. Credit: CCTV-Plus

Life aboard
China’s Tiangong-2 Space Lab. Shenzhou-11 astronauts are able to watch daily TV shows.
Credit: CCTV-Plus

China’s on-going Shenzhou-11/Tiangong-2 mission has included launch of an “accompanying” satellite.

The 104-pound (47 kilograms) satellite – about the size of a printer — was launched from the Tiangong-2 space lab on Sunday at 7:31 a.m., local Beijing time.

China’s Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization under the Chinese Academy of Sciences reports that the micro satellite is able to conduct efficient orbit control, process tasks autonomously and transmit data at high speeds.

Close-up images

The newly-launched satellite has stronger capabilities compared with an accompanying satellite that was dispatched during the three-person Shenzhou-7 spacecraft mission back in September 2008, according to the center.

Tiangong-2 satellite deployer. Credit: CSU

Tiangong-2 satellite deployer.
Credit: CSU

At the end of October, the satellite will orbit close to Tiangong-2 and Shenzhou-11 and take photos using its high-resolution camera. The accompanying satellite will also carry out space experiments with Tiangong-2.

The Shenzhou-11 spacecraft carried two astronauts into space on October 17 from northwest China’s Gobi Desert. It docked with Tiangong-2 two days later.


Experiments underway

Also on tap for the Shenzhou-11 crew — astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong — a space-Earth quantum key distribution experiment will be conducted by the space travelers and scientists, in an effort to carry out space-to-ground quantum communication.

Credit: CSU

Credit: CSU

The two Chinese astronauts currently living in the Tiangong-2 space lab carried out a brain-computer interaction experiment and an in-space plant cultivation experiment last Friday.

Plant cultivation

In a CCTV-Plus interview, Wang Longji, scientist, Environment Control and Life Support Lab, China Astronaut Research and Training Center explains:

“First, we want to check the water control and nutrition transmission and measurement technologies. Second, we want to check the technologies for sowing seeds, pulling up unnecessary seedlings and looking after plants automatically while in orbit,” Wang said. “Third, we want collect data concerning the volume of oxygen produced by photosynthesis, the harvest yield, and the plants’ nutritional quality and edibility. Fourth, the plant cultivation experiment will bring happiness to the astronauts and improve their working efficiency and moods during their 30-day stay in space.”

Heavy workload

According to Yang Liwei, nearly 40 experiments have been arranged for this space voyage, sixteen of which are related to aerospace medicine and four of which concern application practices.

Credit: CCTV America

Credit: CCTV America

“All the experiments are in preparation for our future space station,” Yang says. “The space lab is built for our experimental needs and for us to accumulate experience. So, according to our arrangements, the tasks will be carried out one by one. The workload is really heavy. As the other experiments are gradually launched, the situation will become more and more complicated and varied for the two astronauts.”

For video views of activities aboard the Shenzhou-11/Tiangong-2 space lab, go to:

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