top of page

China Launched its 1st permanent experimental module for Tiangong Space Station

The WenTian module is mainly used to support astronauts' stay, exit activities, and carry out space science experiments.

Long March 5B Y-3 carrier rocket carrying the WenTian experimental module (CMS)

At 06:22:22 UTC on July 24, 2022, the Long March 5B Y-3 carrier rocket carrying the WenTian experimental module was ignited and launched on time at the Wenchang Space Launch Site in Hainan Province, China. After about 495 seconds, the Wentian experimental module and the rocket separated and entered the intended orbit, the launch was a complete success.

This is the 24th flight mission since the establishment of China's manned space project. The Wentian experimental module launched is the second section of the Chinese space station and the first scientific experimental module.

The Wentian experimental cabin is composed of a working cabin, an airlock cabin, and a resource cabin. The take-off weight is about 23 tons. It is mainly used to support astronauts/taikonauts' stay, exit activities, and carry out space science experiments. At the same time, it can be used as a backup for the Tianhe core cabin. Manage the space station.

The future expansion structure of China Space Station, which according to China manned space authorities, shall weigh over 180 tons. Now, with Wentian being docked to the Tianhe, the weight of the space station combination has reached some 50 tons.

The Docking to stations core module "TianHe" is scheduled in 12 hrs.

Liang Xiaofeng, the chief electricity designer of Wentian, told from a technical point of view, Wentian has paved the way for the expansion, but subsequent plans will be in accordance with the overall project. "We will have to analyze and sort out the needs for each plan, but we definitely have acquired the key technologies [for module expansion] in reserve."

New modules to be added to the T-shape strucure could be foreign spacecraft such as lab modules or manned spacecraft, Pang Zhihao, a senior space expert.

Summarizing the functions of the lab module, the state owned space giant China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp (CASC) the major contractor of the space station program, states that Wentian is mainly designed with the ability of unified management and control of the station assembly, as well as the ability to dock, transpose, and park at the core cabin.

It will also support taikonauts' stay in orbit by providing a special airlock cabin and emergency shelter to ensure their safety during extravehicular activities or spacewalk missions, and support various scientific experiments in and outside the cabins.

To start with, with Wentian docked to the space station combination, the living, and working areas for the taikonauts will instantly be doubled. Also, the bigger-diameter airlock of Wentian would facilitate the crew's spacewalking missions, an obvious change for the better to the crew, among others.

The key platform functions of Wentian are the same with those on Tianhe, meaning that the two would serve as each other's backup, and both of them are capable of covering all task requirements needed for the assembly, the CASC said.

Weighing 23 tons at launch, Wentian consists of three parts: a working cabin, an airlock cabin and a resource cabin, with a total length of 17.9 meters, and a diameter of 4.2 meters.