Engineers have begun injecting propellant into the Long march-2F T2 rocket that will carry the Tiangong-2 into space, reports China’s State news agency Xinhua, quoting Wu Ping, the deputy director of the manned space engineering office.
Once launched into space, the Tiangong-2 is scheduled to manoeuvre itself into an orbit about 380 kilometres above the Earth for initial tests. It will then transfer to a slightly higher orbit about 393 kilometres above the Earth when the Shenzhou-11 will ferry two astronauts to the lab.
The two Chinese astronauts will remain in Tiangong-2 for 30 days, said Wu Ping. She added that in April 2017, China’s first cargo spaceship Tianzhou-1, which literally means “heavenly vessel,” will dock with Tiangong-2 and provide it with fuel and supplies.
The new Chinese space laboratory has been equipped to conduct experiments related to medicine, physics and biology, including quantum key transmission, studies on space atomic clocks and solar wind research, she added.
Research with space atomic clocks may shed more light onto the interactions between gravity and the passing of time, which is research that is of crucial importance for all long-term space missions.
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