China's Tianzhou-4 Cargo Vehicle in Orbit


The Tianzhou-4 cargo spacecraft completed an automatic docking in orbit with the Tianhe space station module late Monday after launching from Wenchang.

The Chinese cargo ship completed the berthing of the Tianhe module aft port at 9:20 on 54 May. Seven hours after the launch of a Long March 7 rocket from the coastal Wenchang launch center in southern Hainan Province.

The launch took place early on Monday at 13:56 PM. East marks the fifth flight of the Long March 7, designed specifically for space station cargo missions.

As with previous cargo flights, Tianzhou-4 carries three categories of supplies, including six-month living supplies for taikonauts, spare parts for space station maintenance, and space exploration equipment.

Tianzhou-4 has rapid docking technology, which takes only seven hours to dock with the space station.

Within the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, No. Li Zhihui, deputy commander of the cargo spacecraft system of the 5 Research Institute, explained the docking process in a previous interview with China Media Group.

Li explained that after leaving the rocket, the cargo ship moved from perigee orbit to the orbit of the space station through long-range autonomous guidance and close-range autonomous control to achieve rapid docking.

“Long-range autonomous guidance is accomplished by a jet-engine-powered trajectory change that takes the Tianzhou cargo spacecraft from a 200-kilometer-high perigee orbit to a space station orbit at 393 kilometers.

The cargo ship will then enter the autonomous control phase, where it docks with the core module after passing through four mooring points at a distance of 5 kilometers, 400 meters, 200 meters and 19 meters from the space station. These operations take a total of 6,5 hours,” he said.

Five more spaceflight missions will be launched this year to complete the construction of China's space station in orbit.
The Shenzhou-14 spacecraft will take the three astronauts to the space station in June and place them in the core module for six months.

The Wentian lab module will dock with the Tianhe core module in July, and the Mengtian lab module will dock with the core module in October to complete the orbital construction of a T-shaped space station.

The Tianzhou-4 cargo ship is a fully enclosed cargo ship with a total weight of 13,5 tons. It carries 6.9 tons of cargo, making it the world's most capable cargo ship in service, according to China Media Group.

The Spacecraft is 10.6 meters long and reaches 14.9 meters wide when the solar panels are fully opened. It consists of two parts: a 2.8 meter diameter thruster module and a 3.35 meter diameter cargo storage module.

The spacecraft also brought seeds, including varieties of wheat, soybeans, and corn, collected from universities for experiments in space.
According to Li, the research team made several adjustments to the Tianzhou-4 to expand storage by optimizing package designs, as well as to make it easier for taikonauts to find packages.

Xu Xiaoping, deputy chief designer of the Tianzhou-4 cargo ship, said the planning will be more precise in future missions as the consumption of propellant in this mission is used as planned. “Next time we can bring in more packages without carrying extra fuel,” Xu said.

Tianzhou-4 is expected to remain on the space station until the completion of the Shenzhou-14 mission.

Source: CGTN

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