China‘s national space agency rolled a Long March 2F rocket with a Shenzhou spacecraft on top to their launch site at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. We expect this to be preparation for the Shenzhou-13 mission launching this week.
Possible Shenzhou-13 launch by end of the week
China has not announced details about the launch, crew, time, or date. However, we expect the crew to be the backup to Shenzhou-12: Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping, and Ye Guangfu. Yaping will end up being the first female Chinese astronaut to visit the Tianhe station.
This mission will be the second crewed flight to the Tianhe space station and will double China’s record for longest space flight. Once Shenzhou-13 reaches the station, the crew will be on board for 6 months, similar to the average stay for astronauts on the International Space Station.
The launch is expected to occur towards the end of the week, but we will have to wait for airspace closures to get the first signs of when the launch window could open.
The Shenzhou spacecraft is a similar design to Russia’s Soyuz but slightly larger. First launched backing 1999, China became only the third nation to develop the technology to launch crewed missions to space. In total, the Shenzhou spacecraft has launch seven crews to space.
Shenzhou-14 could be jus around the corner
The Long March rocket being used for Shenzhou-13 was used as a backup in case there was an emergency on the station during Shenzhou-12. The same will be so for Shenzhou-14’s rocket, already stacked in the Bay 1 of the vertical assembly building.
We do expect formal announcements and live coverage of this launch to take place. While China usually does not announce launches of their uncrewed missions until after it is successful, crewed missions for China are covered live by state-run media.
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