Tianzhou-5 spacecraft detaches from China Space Station, makes room for upcoming cargo delivery mission
Published: May 06, 2023 12:14 AM
Illustration of Tianzhou-5 cargo spacecraft Photo:

Illustration of Tianzhou-5 cargo spacecraft Photo:

The Tianzhou-5 cargo spacecraft has detached from the China Space Station complex and entered an independent flight phase, the China Manned Space Agency announced on Friday, a move seen by experts as being part of preparations for the upcoming cargo supply run scheduled for early May.

In the next stage, Tianzhou-5 will rendezvous and dock with the space station's forward port after the Shenzhou-15 manned spacecraft departs from the space station complex, the agency said.

The Tianzhou-5 cargo spacecraft was launched into orbit on November 12, 2022, from the Wenchang space port in South China's Hainan Province.

It was loaded with supplies for the three crews of the Shenzhou-15 mission, including consumables for their six-month stay in orbit, propellants, and experimental equipment.

It also carried several experimental projects, including an experimental satellite from the Macao Special Administrative Region, a space hydrogen-oxygen fuel cell, and a high-energy particle detection payload.

Space analysts said the move is part of preparations for the next Tianzhou-6 cargo mission, which is scheduled for launch in early to mid-May, according to Xinhua News Agency.

The Tianzhou cargo spacecraft has a total length of 10.6 meters and weighs 13.5 tons. For the Tianzhou-6 mission, its cargo capacity has been increased from 6.9 tons to 7.4 tons, making it one of the most capable cargo spacecraft in the world.

In previous models, the original cargo compartment had a partially unsealed section, but Tianzhou-6 has moved the equipment from the unsealed section to the propulsion compartment, significantly increasing the space in the cargo compartment and raising the loading volume from 18.1 cubic meters to 22.5 cubic meters, an increase of over 20 percent.

Additionally, Tianzhou-6 will carry 1.75 tons of propellant, about 700 kilograms of which has been prepared for refueling the space station.

Apart from daily supplies, the cargo list for Tianzhou-6 includes an additional set of electric propulsion xenon gas bottles.

These can serve as backup fuel propellant for the space station, and effectively reduce the station's propellant consumption.

Global Times