Thursday, 15 September 2016

China launches Tiangong-2 space lab

How to See China's New Space Lab Overhead
China’s Tiangong-2 space laboratory launches atop a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Sept. 15, 2016

Now is a good time to view China's newly launched space lab.

Tiangong-2 launched Sept. 15 from China's Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center aboard a Long March 2F rocket. The orbiting laboratory, which is expected to be occupied by two astronauts later this month, should be readily visible to early risers over the next couple of weeks.

It will be available again in the first half of November, but during more convenient evening hours.

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China launches Tiangong-2 "Heavenly Palace" to pave way for space station
Tiangong-2 lifts off on a Long March 2F-T2 rocket from the Jiuquan launch centre on at 22:04 Beijing time, September 15. (Photo: Xinhua)

China has successfully launched its Tiangong-2 space lab, marking a crucial step towards establishing a permanently crewed space station.

Tiangong-2 was launched by a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre at 22:04 Beijing time (14:04 UTC) on Thursday, taking just under ten minutes to enter orbit.

The 10.4 metre long, 3.35 wide spacelab will be visited in October by two astronauts aboard the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft, to conduct a range of scientific research and set a national record for mission duration.

A comprehensive guide to China’s space activities in 2016
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China to Perform Space Brain-Machine Interaction Experiments on Tiangong-2

China launched its second space station, Tiangong-2, on Thursday, according to state media reports, paving the way for a permanent space station that the country plans to build around 2022.

The launch of the new satellite comes five years after the country launched its first space station, Tiangong-1, in September 2011.

The space station Tiangong-2 is China’s first real space lab. A brain-computer interaction test system, developed by Tianjin University, has been installed in the lab and it is set to conduct a series of experiments in space, People’s Daily reported.


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China launches Tiangong-2 space lab

China has launched its second space lab, taking one step further in Beijing's plan to establish a permanent space station.

A Long March 2F rocket blasted off successfully at 10:04 p.m. local time Thursday (10:04 a.m. ET) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert carrying the lab known as Tiangong-2, which translates to "heavenly vessel," according to state media China Central Television.

The Long March 2F carrier rocket is carried to the launch tower last week.
Once in space, the Tiangong-2 will maneuver itself into orbit roughly 400 kilometers (about 250 miles) above the Earth, CCTV reported.

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China launches Tiangong-2 orbital module

China took another step on its long march to a permanent orbital outpost with the launch of the Tiangong-2 orbital module from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The launch, conducted by a Long March 2F – took place at 14:04 UTC from the 921 Launch Pad of the LC43 Launch Complex. The new orbital outpost will enable the crews to remain in orbit for 30-day missions.

Original built as a back up to Tiangong-1, TG-2 is expected to be identical in size to the previous Chinese station that was launched in 2011.

The original plan was for Tiangong-2 to be launched at the end of 2013 or early in 2014. However, following the successful flights to Tiangong-1, China changed the original roadmap.

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China launches Tiangong-2 space laboratory into orbit
Long March 2F liftoff with Tiangong-2. Photo Credit: Xinhua

On Thursday, Sept. 15, China successfully launched a Long March 2F rocket carrying the country’s second space lab – Tiangong-2 (meaning “Heavenly Palace” in Chinese). Liftoff took place at 10:04 p.m. local time (14:04 GMT; 10:04 a.m. EDT) from Launch Area 4 at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, located in China’s Gansu Province.

The launch, originally targeted for 2014, was delayed several times. More recently, the mission was set for Sept. 13; however, it was postponed one more time, most likely due to the Aug. 31, 2016, suspected launch failure of Long March 4C with the Gaofen-10 satellite. Finally, the liftoff was rescheduled to Sept. 15 with a launch window extending until Sept. 20.

Thursday’s flight concludes a three-month long launch campaign, which commenced on July 9 with the arrival of Tiangong-2 at Jiuquan. The booster was shipped to the center nearly one month later, starting a busy month of pre-launch tests and checkouts. The fully assembled launch vehicle, with the space laboratory atop of it, encapsulated in the payload fairing, was rolled out to the launch site on Sept. 9.

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China Launches Tiangong-2 Space Lab to Prep for 2020s Space Station
China's Tiangong-2 space laboratory for astronauts launches into space atop a Long March 2F rocket in this view from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on Sept. 15, 2016. Credit: China Manned Space Program

China has launched its second-ever space lab, a key part of the nation's plan to have a permanently staffed space station up and running by the early 2020s.

The uncrewed Tiangong-2 spacecraft lifted off today (Sept. 15) from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 10:04 a.m. EDT (1404 GMT; 10:04 p.m. local Beijing time), riding a Long March-2F T2 rocket to orbit.

If all goes according to plan, the 9.5-ton (8.6 metric tons) Tiangong-2 — whose name translates as "Heavenly Palace" in Mandarin — will soon settle into an orbit about 236 miles (380 kilometers) above Earth and perform a series of initial tests and checkouts, according to China's state-run Xinhua news agency.

related: China's Tiangong-2 Space Lab Mission in Pictures

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'Out of control' Chinese space station to crash to earth in 2017
China's Tiangong-1 space lab will eventually burn up in earth's atmosphere CREDIT: ADRIAN MANN

China appears to have confirmed speculation that it has lost control of its 8.5-ton space station, which is expected to come crashing down to Earth in 2017.

Officials speaking at the launch of the Tiangong-2 space lab said the Tiangong-1, or "Heavenly Palace" lab, which launched in 2011, had "comprehensively fulfilled its historical mission".

The lab is currently intact and orbiting at an average height of 370 kilometers, officials said in quotes published by the official Xinhua news agency. It is expected to enter Earth's atmosphere in late 2017.

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'Heavenly Palace': China to Launch Two Manned Space Missions This Fall

The two missions are expected to become the country’s first steps to establishing a new space station in low-Earth orbit over the next decade.

Tiangong-2, which means “Heavenly Palace,” is a small space laboratory module, and will be launched in mid-September from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China, atop a Long March 2F rocket. The space lab is slated to adopt on orbit at an altitude of some 244 miles (393 kilometers) above Earth, and will serve as the first component for China’s future space station.

Following that launch, in October the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft will launch from the same site, and dock with the Tiangong-2, delivering two male astronauts for a month-long mission, China Manned Space Engineering (CMSE) office reported.

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China launches world's 1st quantum satellite
QUESS satellite designed to establish 'hack-proof' quantum communications

China on Tuesday launched the world's first quantum satellite, which will help it establish "hack-proof" communications between space and the ground, state media said, the latest advance in an ambitious space programme.

The programme is a priority as President Xi Jinping has urged China to establish itself as a space power, and apart from its civilian ambitions, it has tested anti-satellite missiles.

The Quantum Experiments at Space Scale, or QUESS, satellite, was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the remote northwestern province of Gansu in the early hours of Tuesday, the official Xinhua news agency said.

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China launches quantum-enabled satellite Micius
The rocket containing the satellite took off from the Gobi Desert

China has successfully launched the world's first quantum-enabled satellite, state media said.

It was carried on a rocket which blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in China's north west early on Tuesday. The satellite is named after the ancient Chinese scientist and philosopher Micius.

The project tests a technology that could one day offer digital communication that is "hack-proof".

related: China’s plans for the Moon, Mars and beyond

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China targets moon's far side for space probe landing
China's Chang'e-3 moon lander, above, carried the rover Yutu to the moon in 2013. Zou Yongliao from the Chinese Academy of Sciences' moon exploration department says China's next moon probe will land on the far side of the moon - somewhere no space probe has ever landed. ( Wang Jianmin Xinhua/The Associated Press)

China's increasingly ambitious space program plans to attempt the first-ever landing of a lunar probe on the moon's far side, a leading engineer said.

The Chang'e 4 mission is planned for sometime before 2020, Zou Yongliao from the Chinese Academy of Sciences' moon exploration department told state broadcaster CCTV in an interview broadcast on Wednesday.

Zou said the mission's objective would be to study geological conditions on the moon's far side, also known as the dark side.

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China Joins Ranks of Moon Explorers

A Chinese man takes a photo of his son in an astronaut suit, locally known as taikonauts, at the Science Museum in Beijing, Dec. 1, 2013. Photographer: Mark Ralston/AFP via Getty Images

China landed an unmanned rover on the moon, making the Asian nation the third country after the U.S. and the Soviet Union to touch down a spacecraft on the lunar surface.

The probe, carrying a rover dubbed Jade Rabbit that will survey the moon’s geology and natural resources, landed at about 9 p.m. Beijing time yesterday, the Xinhua News Agency said. China’s achievement comes 47 years after the Soviet Union performed a soft landing of its Luna 9 spacecraft on the moon.

The launch is part of the Asian nation’s growing space exploration ambitions, an effort which has seen the country spend billions of dollars even as other nations cut back. For its next step, China wants to land a lunar rover and return it to Earth in 2017, according to Xinhua.

China's World’s Largest Telescope
Built to detect alien existence

About 10,000 people in China will be relocated to make way for the world’s largest radio telescope, which is built to detect alien existence.

Built in the south-western Guizhou province, the 1.2 billion yuan (£128 million) project is part of the country’s ambitious hunt for aliens.

To do that effectively, state-run Xinhua news agency reported that officials will “evacuate” all homes within three miles (5km) of the radio telescope.

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