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China launches crewed spacecraft Shenzhou-12


China launched a spacecraft Shenzhou-12, carrying three astronauts to part of a space station still under construction for the longest stay in low Earth orbit by any Chinese national.

China is the third country after the former Soviet Union and the United States to carry out a manned mission on its own.


Prelims, GS-III: Science and Technology (Important Developments in Space Technology)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About the Shenzhou-12
  2. What is Tianhe?
  3. About China’s Tiangong Space Station

About the Shenzhou-12

  • The Shenzhou-12 launch is the first of two manned space missions planned for 2021 by China as a part of an intense schedule of launches aimed at completing the Chinese space station in 2022.
  • A Long March 2F rocket transported the Shenzhou-12, or Divine Vessel, towards the Tianhe space station module.
  • The Shenzhou-12 craft connected with the Tianhe space station module about six hours after takeoff from the Jiuquan launch center in Gobi Desert.
  • The three-man crew will spend three months on the Tianhe module, which is orbiting at some 340km to 380km above the earth.
  • This mission will help test technologies related to long-term astronaut-stays and health care, the recycling and life support system, the supply of space materials, extravehicular activities and operations, and in-orbit maintenance.

What is Tianhe?

  • Tianhe is one of three main components of what would be China’s first self-developed space station, rivalling the only other station in service – the International Space Station (ISS).
  • Tianhe forms the main living quarters for three crew members in the Chinese space station, which will have a life span of at least 10 years.
  • The Tianhe launch was the first of 11 missions needed to complete the space station, which will orbit Earth at an altitude of 340 to 450 km (211-280 miles).
  • In the later missions, China will launch the two other core modules, four manned spacecraft and four cargo spacecraft.
  • Work on the space station programme began a decade ago with the launch of a space lab Tiangong-1 in 2011, and later, Tiangong-2 in 2016.

About China’s Tiangong Space Station

  • The Tiangong Space Station or Chinese large modular space station is a planned space station to be placed in low Earth orbit between 340 and 450 km above the surface.
  • The Chinese Space Station will be roughly one-fifth the mass of the International Space Station and about the size of the decommissioned Russian Mir space station.
  • Operations will be controlled from the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center in China.
  • The Tiangong-3 will be a third generation, modular space station.

-Source: The Hindu

February 2024