Earlier these days, China took a large discovery in their seek a continuing human presence in space: they launched Tianzhou-1, associate degree pilotless resupply ship which will dock with their space platform, Tiangong-2. I’d additionally wish to add that I foreseen this might happen back in 2012, after I claimed that their initial space platform, Tiangong-1, was really a image of a resupply ship. i believe i used to be right!
If you’ll forgive Maine, I simply wish to experience this sadly rare moment of accuracy with this quote from my 2012 article regarding Tiangong-1:
So, in an exceedingly shell, here’s what the Chinese square measure doing: they’ve outfitted what is going to become a future ship with a life web and provides, allowing their Shenzou crew to practice orbital docking, some limited space station living, test life support and propulsion systems for both future space stations and on their future station-supporting cargo ship all in one efficient mission. When they build Tiangong 2, they’ll already have some experience and a resupply ship. It’s pretty clever.
Holy crap, that’s pretty much exactly how things have turned out: Tianzhou-1 (the name means ‘heavenly vessel,’ like the free water bottle you’ll get when you enter the afterlife) is based directly on the original Tiangong-1 ‘space station,’ and it’s now being used to resupply Tiangong-2. I’m sure plenty of other observers figured this as well, but just let me have this tiny victory, please.
Really, though, what I think doesn’t matter a bit. What’s important here is that an automatic-docking resupply ship is absolutely crucial to long-term habitation in space. The Tianzhou series is basically filling the same role as the Soviet/Russian Progress resupply ships, which have been in continuous use since they resupplied the Salyut 6 space station in 1978, and still bring load and fuel to the ISS to the present day.
Tianzhou-1 relies on China’s crewed artificial satellite, Shenzhou, that is successively effectively a progressive and enlarged Soviet/Russian Soyuz style. There’s a service module providing propulsion, fuel, and electricity via star panels, and a cylindrical load module, that incorporates a controlled section and might have associate degree unpressurized section also, typically with fuel tanks to refuel the orbiting station.
This mission can largely specialise in having Tianzhou-1 dock, transfer fuel, and undock from Tiangong-2, multiple times. the most goals of the mission are to check the automated arrival and supplying procedures.
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