This simulated image captured at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Nov 30, 2022 shows China's Shenzhou XV manned spaceship having conducted a fast automated rendezvous and docking with the combination of the space station Tiangong. (Photo/Xinhua)
China will launch two crews to man its Tiangong space station this year, according to the China Manned Space Agency.
The agency published schedules for the Shenzhou XVI and XVII mission crews on Wednesday, saying the Shenzhou XVI team will set out for the Tiangong station in May while their peers in the Shenzhou XVII mission will fly to the massive orbiting outpost in October.
Both crews will consist of three astronauts and will be lifted by a Long March 2F carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China. Each crew will stay at the station for six months to carry out spacewalks and scientific and technological tasks, and they will also offer lectures, according to the agency.
In addition, the Tianzhou 6 robotic cargo spaceship will be sent to Tiangong in May to deliver necessities, spacewalk suits, experimental payloads, spare parts and fuel.
Tiangong now consists of the Tianhe core module, the Wentian and Mengtian science labs, the Shenzhou XV crew spacecraft and the Tianzhou 5 cargo ship.
So far, four groups of Chinese astronauts have lived and worked inside the station. The current crew — the three members of the Shenzhou XV mission — arrived in November. They carried out their first spacewalk last week to mount equipment outside the station.