Credit: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Media Group(CMG)/China Central Television (CCTV)/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China’s Wentian lab module of China’s space station successfully docked with the combination of the Tianhe core module.

The Shenzhou-14 crew opened the door of Wentian and then entered the lab from the core module Tianhe.

Shenzhou-14 crew watches launch of the new lab module.
Credit: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Media Group(CMG)/China Central Television (CCTV)/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Launched on Sunday, the lab module flew to the station construction site, a process that took roughly 13 hours, according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).

It was the first time that China’s two 20-ton-level spacecrafts conducted rendezvous and docking in orbit, and also the first time that a space rendezvous and docking were carried out during the astronauts’ in-orbit stay in the space station, the CMSA said.

Shenzhou-14 crew enters new lab module. Credit: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Media Group(CMG)/China Central Television (CCTV)/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Experiment racks

Like the Tianhe, the Wentian lab module is also equipped with living facilities for the astronauts, including three sleeping areas, a toilet and a kitchen. It has an airlock cabin which will become the main exit-entry point for extravehicular activities (EVAs) once active, replacing the role now played by the Tianhe docking hub.

The astronauts are slated to conduct in-orbit work such as the attitude control of the combination of the space station, small mechanical arm crawling and the test of the complex of big and small arms.

They will also use the airlock cabin and the small mechanical arm of Wentian to carry out extravehicular activities.

Station complete is set for year’s end.
Credit: CNAS/CCTV Video News Agency/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Wentian’s main role is hosting experiment racks for science experiments, while also providing backups to the life support and control functions of the core module that was launched in April 2021.

Mengtian, the final component of the space station, is scheduled to arrive in October.

Crew handover

The new crew facilities will allow China to perform a first crew handover. This will take place when the current Shenzhou-14 crew — commander Chen Dong and co-astronauts Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe — greet three new astronauts aboard Shenzhou-15 in December.

The fully-built Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) station will then host six astronauts for a period of days.

For video views of the docking and the Shenzhou-14 crew boarding the new module, go to:

https://youtu.be/_QpIkVzTCyo

https://youtu.be/tefzas7fCC8

https://youtu.be/QQ_8p49EBOY

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