The Chinese have launched their fifth crewed space mission on Tuesday via the Shenzhou-10 mission. The launch of the Long March 2F/G rocket was on schedule at 09:38 UTC, taking place from Pad 921 at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center’s LC43 Launch Complex.
This new space chapter for the Chinese represents the final occupation of the Tiangong-1 space module and the launch of the second female “yu hang yuan” – the Chinese term for astronaut, as opposed to the more commonly used “taikonaut”.
Should the 15 day mission go to plan, Shenzhou-10 should dock with Tiangong-1 on June 13. The two spacecraft will remain docked for a period of 12 days which will include a second re-docking test, after which Shenzhou-10 will return to Earth on June 26.
Tiangong-1 is intended as a testbed for key technologies that will be used in China’s large modular space station, which is planned for launch in 2020. Furthermore, modified versions of Tiangong-1 will be used as robotic cargo spacecraft to resupply this station. The launch mass of the Tiangong-1-derived cargo spacecraft is expected to be around 13 metric tons (29,000 lb), with a payload of around 6 metric tons (13,000 lb).