The problems are delaying the Chinese cargo flight to a spacecraft

New start date

“Long March 7 Y3” rocket with the “Tianzhou 2” spacecraft on May 16, 2021 at the launch area at the Wenchang spacecraft launch site in Hainan Province, southern China. Photo: Guo Wenbin / Xinhua / dpa

(Photo: dpa)

After postponing the start at the last minute the previous day, the Chinese space program decided not to make a second attempt on Thursday. The “Long March 7” missile was still at the Wenchang Space Station on Hainan Island, south China, while unspecified problems had to be resolved.

Space experts initially predicted a possible new attempt to start Thursday at 7:09 pm CEST. Police have imposed the usual traffic restrictions around the space station, as a start. Unlike the day before, the Chinese space program was reluctant to make predictions about whether a new launch attempt was possible.

The day before the delay, the space program had only spoken of “technical reasons.” The new start date should be set “in due time”. The “Tianzhu 2” (Sky Ship) will bring supplies and fuel to the main part of the space station called “Tianhe” (Heavenly Harmony), which is scheduled to be completed by the end of next year.

The flight is the prerequisite for a three-astronaut mission with “Shenzhou 12” to the base unit – according to unconfirmed US reports, at least so far planned for June 10. It should last for three months. In addition to supplies, the cargo flight will also carry two space suits and equipment to build the space station. It was not clear if there was a problem with the missile or the spacecraft.

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A two-stage launcher “Langer Marsch 7 Y3” has already flown twice in this variant – the most recent being ten months ago with “Tianzhou 1”. In another configuration (Fig.7a), this type of missile encountered complications in March 2020 when a satellite could not be brought into a preset orbit due to a problem with the first-stage missile. Group G missiles belong to a new family of “Long March” missiles, which are intended to slowly replace the old Groups 2, 3, and 4.

It is unclear what other delays caused by the flight being postponed indefinitely. The cargo missions with “Tianzhu” spaceships are an important part of the space station construction plans, which are scheduled to be completed by the end of next year. Due to initial problems with the powerful new missile type “Langer Marsch 5B”, the flight program for this was much more compact than had been planned years ago.

Officials indicated that the pressure was great. After the three astronauts’ flight in June, another cargo mission is scheduled to begin in September. Three more astronauts will follow in October. Next year, two laboratory units, each weighing a good 20 tons, will be brought into space, and will be attached to the base T-shaped unit. Two cargo flights and two manned missions are also planned for 2022.

If everything succeeds in building the space station, China will be the only country still operating a permanent settlement base in space if the International Space Station (ISS) stops operating as planned in the next few years. She has an ambitious space program. On Saturday only China became the second country after the United States to successfully land on Mars, where a rover was used. Another maritime surveillance satellite was launched on Wednesday. China is also currently operating a rover on the other side of the moon.

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