Tianzhou freighter to help advance science
Chinese scientists, researchers and engineers now have the option of using the country’s robotic cargo spacecraft to perform experiments and tests, according to the Chinese Manned Space Agency.
The agency said in a statement Thursday that science experiments, technology tests and other applications in border or strategically important areas could be conducted aboard Chinese cargo ships Tianzhou.
Projects affiliated with central and local governments, research organizations, educational organizations and businesses are invited to submit their proposals to the agency by January 15.
The physical size of each selected experiment or trial should not exceed a maximum weight of 30 kilograms and a maximum height of 30 centimeters. They must follow strict safety standards, according to specific requirements published by the agency.
Participants must deliver their devices, which are to be transported by the spacecraft, to the agency eight to ten months before the scheduled launch date for associated checks. They are also required to ensure that these devices will be ready to launch no later than three months before the launch date.
The Tianzhou series craft are tasked with transporting supplies and thrusters to China’s permanent space station, which is now manned by three astronauts and will be expanded with more modules in 2022.
With an expected lifespan of over a year, each Tianzhou freighter consists of two parts: a cargo cabin and a propulsion section. These vehicles are 10.6 meters long and 3.35 meters wide.
Each Tianzhou spacecraft has a takeoff weight of 13.5 tonnes and can carry up to 6.9 tonnes of supplies to the space station, according to designers at the Chinese Academy of Space Technologies.
Lei Jianyu, a leading structural engineer, said Tianzhou is the world’s best space freighter in terms of carrying capacity. Previously, no cargo vehicle could carry up to 6.9 tonnes of material into space.
Lei said there was a total of 40 cubic meters inside the vehicle and 18 cubic meters were available for freight.
The shapes and arrangements of the shelves are carefully calculated to allow astronauts to move easily between them to retrieve the desired items.
Tianzhou 1, China’s first cargo spacecraft, was launched at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan Province in April 2017. It performed several docking and refueling maneuvers in orbit with a Chinese space lab in low earth orbit from April to September that year, making China the third country capable of refueling in orbit, after the former Soviet Union and the United States.