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Two lab modules to be central work area on China's space station

Updated: Apr 18,2022 07:52    Xinhua

BEIJING — The Wentian and Mengtian lab modules will be sent into space this year, and will become the central working area for astronauts in orbit after China's space station construction is completed, according to a press conference on April 17.

The Wentian lab module will be launched in July and Mengtian in October, Hao Chun, director of the China Manned Space Agency, said at the press conference.

Yang Hong, the chief designer of the space station system of the China Manned Space Program at the China Academy of Space Technology, said that both modules are equipped with experiment cabinets and an installation platform for extravehicular payloads. In the two lab modules, astronauts will be able to research space science, space materials, space medicine and space exploration.

The Wentian lab module is equipped with the same astronaut living facilities as the Tianhe core module, including three sleeping areas, a toilet and a kitchen. Wentian and Tianhe can support six astronauts living in space during the rotations of two spacecraft crews.

A small mechanical arm is installed on the Wentian lab module. It can be used alone or work with the larger robotic arm on the Tianhe core module to assist astronauts in extravehicular activities.

An airlock cabin in the Wentian lab module will serve as the main exit-entry point for extravehicular activities once the construction is completed. The node cabin in Tianhe will then serve as a backup.

To ensure the reliability of the space station, Wentian will act as a backup for the management and control of the space station complex if there is an issue with the core module.

In the Mengtian lab module, a cargo airlock cabin and a deployed extravehicular platform will serve future extravehicular research projects. The science equipment that needs to be installed outside will first be sent to the space station by cargo craft, then transferred outside through the cargo airlock cabin, and then installed on the extravehicular platform by mechanical arms or astronauts.

Yang said the Wentian lab module has completed integrated assembly and testing in Tianjin and is ready for launch. The Mengtian lab module has completed part of its integrated assembly and testing, and is currently undergoing further testing as planned.