Chinese space station: robotic arm successfully transfers cargo ship
The robotic arm attached to the Chinese space station managed to grab and transfer the Tianzhou-2 cargo ship during a test Thursday, the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) said.
This was the first such maneuver of the 10-meter-long robotic arm, capable of lifting objects weighing up to 20 tons.
In the early hours of the morning, the robotic arm reached out and grabbed the Tianzhou-2. At 6:12 a.m. Beijing time, the Tianzhou-2 disconnected from the space station’s Tianhe central module and was swung 20 degrees by the robotic arm. Shortly after, the freighter was returned to its original position and reconnected with Tianhe.
The whole process, which required close coordination between the different systems, lasted around 47 minutes.
The operation tested the feasibility and effectiveness of using the mechanical arm to transfer a section of the space station into orbit and verified the arm’s ability to handle heavy loads.
This success paved the way for follow-up in-orbit assembly work for the construction of the space station later this year.
So far, the unfinished space station consists of the Tianhe central module, the Tianzhou-2 and Tianzhou-3 cargo ships, and the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft.
This year, China will launch the Tianzhou-4 cargo spacecraft first, followed by the Shenzhou-14 manned spacecraft, with Tianzhou-4 ready to provide supplies to the Shenzhou-14 crew. During their stay, two laboratory modules, Wentian and Mengtian, will be sent successively into space.
Each lab module will dock first to the front docking port of the central module and then be transferred by the robotic arm to the side docking ports on either side of the central module.
A T-shaped complex will be formed, by which time construction of the space station would be completed.
The Tianzhou-5 cargo spacecraft and the Shenzhou-15 crewed spacecraft will then be launched to begin the orbiting rotation of the space station crew.
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