Image credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China’s Shenzhou-18 crewed spacecraft has been rolled out to its launching area atop a Long March-2F carrier rocket, stated the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) on Wednesday.

The Shenzhou-18 will become China’s 13th human spaceflight and the first crewed mission to visit China’s Tiangong station this year.

CMSA said all facilities and equipment to handle the upcoming liftoff from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China are in good condition.

A set of pre-launch checkouts are planned, with takeoff of the still-unannounced crew to occur at an appropriate time in the near future, said the CMSA. April 25 is a possible launch date, according to sources.

Image credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Winds and dust

Wang Xuewu, deputy director, Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, told China Central Television (CCTV ) that the piloted mission will be the first flight of a crew performed in April since China began building the country’s space station.

“Considering the characteristics of high winds and dust during this season,” Wang said, “we have conducted statistical analysis of meteorological data over the past 30 years in the launch site, and formulated targeted preventive measures and response strategies.”

Wang added that there has been a power supply system update of certain facilities, as well as collaborative training of personnel, including emergency drills.

“We have also improved the comprehensive situational awareness and critical information collection and dissemination capabilities of the launch site, optimized our product testing projects and timing, therefore, further improving the site’s ability to handle continuous missions,” Wang said.

Now orbiting Shenzhou-17 space station crew.
Image credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Current crew: return to Earth

The in-orbit Shenzhou-17 crew —  mission commander Senior Colonel Tang Hongbo and crew members Lieutenant Colonel Jiang Xinlin and Lieutenant Colonel Tang Shengjie — are scheduled to return to Earth this month.

That now-orbiting trio arrived at the orbiting outpost on October 26 of last year. By the end of April, the Shenzhou-17 team will have been circling Earth in the station for six months.

Later this year, another set of astronauts — a Shenzhou-19 crew — is slated to take over space station operations.

Go to this video of the Shenzhou-18 rollout at:

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