China launches Shenzhou-14 spacecraft to complete new space station construction

5 June, 2022 | Pravina Srivastava

China launched the Shenzhou-14 spacecraft with three astronauts to its new Tiangong space station on Sunday

China launched the Shenzhou-14 spacecraft with three astronauts to its new Tiangong space station on Sunday, where they will work and dwell for six months as building progresses.

A Long March-2F Y14 carrier rocket carrying the Shenzhou-14 spacecraft was launched at 10:44 a.m. from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in Gansu Province, Northwest China. On Saturday, the three members of the Shenzhou 14 crew commander Chen Dong, Liu Yang, and Cai Xuzhe — were officially revealed as the crew.

Shenzhou-14 is making history as the first crewed spaceflight trip to Tianhe at the in-orbit assembly stage of the China Space Station, and it is also the first mission without an older age line.

During the Shenzhou-14 crew’s six-month stay in orbit, the Wentian and Mengtian space station lab modules, the Tianzhou-5 freight spacecraft, and the Shenzhou-15 manned spacecraft are planned to be launched.

Chen Dong, a veteran of the 2016 Shenzhou 11 mission, has taken charge of his second mission. Another crew member, Liu Yang, became China’s first woman in space after going to space in the Shenzhou-9 mission in 2012, while Cai Xuzhe will be making his first flight on the forthcoming mission.

A Beijing-based senior space specialist said the new Shenzhou taikonaut three must have performed admirably during training, and the younger crew members had grasped new knowledge and skills in preparation for the mission.

According to the Shenzhou spacecraft developer with the state-owned aerospace contractor China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., the three will perform verification of large and small robotic arms, spacewalks, and payload installation outside the cabin (CASC.)

The installation of a small robotic arm on the Wentian module is another feature of the Shenzhou-14 expedition.

The last expedition, Shenzhou-13, returned to Earth safely on April 16 after successfully completing the technological verification stage of China’s space station.