Core module of China’s space station.
Credit: CMS/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China is set to loft a key module of the country’s space station on April 29 (Beijing Time) – around 03:00 UTC.

The critical “Tianhe-1” core module will be lofted by a Long March-5B Y2 rocket from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in south China’s Hainan province. If successful, China will later dispatch a Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft to rendezvous and dock with the core module, followed by a three-person crew onboard a Shenzhou-12 spacecraft.

China plans to launch the core module of its space station from Wenchang on April 29 using a Long March-5B Y2 rocket.
A Navigation warning, active from 03:00 – 04:00 UTC, has been issued for two areas to the west of the Philippines. Tracking forward from the launch site shows that the planned orbital inclination is 42°. The initial orbital height will be near 124 miles (200 kilometers). 
Credit: Robert Christy (used with permission)

The Long March-7 Y3 launch vehicle is already at Wenchang to launch the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft. Additionally, a Long March-2F launch vehicle and the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft have arrived at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gansu Province, China.

Robert Christy at has noted that navigation warnings indicate the inclination of the core module will be 42 degrees.

Must succeed

In a recent China Central Television (CCTV) interview, Yang Liwei, China’s first astronaut and director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office, said that orbiting the core module is critical and must succeed. “The launch of the core module will be a milestone indeed,” Yang added.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Yang said China is set to send a cadre of 12 astronauts into space in 2021 and 2022 to build China’s orbiting outpost. Crew members for the four crewed flights necessary to piece together and operate the space station have been chosen and are undergoing mission training.

Go to these China Central Television (CCTV) videos about the country’s space station plans:

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