China to Launch Tiangong-2 Space Station on September 15 - UPDATE
UPDATE: September 15. Tiangong 2 was successfully launched on time today.
Original Story, September 14, 2016: China officially announced today that it will launch its second small space station, Tiangong-2, on September 15 at 10:04 pm China Standard Time (10:04 am Eastern Daylight Time). Two astronauts will launch to the space station in mid-late October for a 30-day mission.
China's intention to launch Tiangong-2 this month was well known, but this is the first official announcement of the launch date and time. It will launch from the Jiuquan launch center in the Gobi desert on a Long March 2-F rocket, the same type of rocket that will take the Shenzhou-11 crew into space in October.
China's Xinhua news service also said the first robotic resupply mission will be launched in April 2017. The Tianzhou-1 cargo ship will be launched on the new Long March 7 rocket from China's new Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island.
The Tiangong space stations are small. Tiangong-2 is just 10.4 meters long and 3.35 meters maximum diameter, with a mass of 8.5 metric tons (MT). Tiangong-1 was launched in 2011 and hosted two 3-person crews, in 2012 and 2013, for approximately two weeks each.
Each of the 3-person crews included a woman astronaut (or "taikonaut"), but the Shenzhou-11 crew will be two men.
China plans to build a larger, 60 MT multi-modular space station in the early 2020s.
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