To now, China’s Tiangong space station has successfully launched its second module.
According to Reuters, the Wentian “Quest for the Heavens” module blasted out from the country’s Wenchang spaceport on a Long March 5B rocket on Sunday at 2:22 pm local time (2:22 am ET).
A successful launch means that Wentian is scheduled to arrive at the Tiangong space station later today.
China’s Shenzhou-14 crew will then begin the process of connecting Wentian to the Tianhe “Harmony of Heaves” module.
Tiangong began construction on its orbital platform in April of this year. As one of Tiangong’s two laboratories, after Wentian is fully operational, it will be used to create the t-shaped structure.
Three astronauts can live on the space station when it is completed, making it about a quarter of the size of the International Space Station.
Besides providing space and equipment for Chinese astronauts to conduct research in microgravity and life sciences, Wentian has an airlock cabin that will be the primary entry and exit point from Tiangong for future extravehicular activities.
China will be able to conduct crew transfer missions thanks to the module’s temporary living quarters. One such transfer will take place later this year, according to Space.com’s estimates.
The last module of China’s Tiangong spacecraft is scheduled to be launched in October. It’s possible that commercial space flights could be allowed to visit Tiangong in the future. It has also invited space agencies from around the world to visit the ISS.