The core module of China's space station in research. (Photo/China Daily)
The Long March 5B carrier rocket which will launch the core capsule of China's space station was moved on Friday morning to the launch tower at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in the southernmost island province of Hainan, according to the China Manned Space Agency.
The agency said in a brief statement that the rocket with the core capsule inside will begin pre-launch examinations.
The launch mission, the second flight for Long March 5B, is scheduled to take place in the coming days, sources close to the mission said.
China's most sophisticated space endeavor, the multimodule space station, named Tiangong, or Heavenly Palace, will be mainly composed of three components-a core capsule attached to two space laboratories-with a combined weight of more than 90 metric tons.
The station is expected to become fully operational next year and is set to operate for about 15 years, program planners have said.
The core capsule, named Tianhe, or Harmony of Heavens, is 16.6 meters long with a diameter of 4.2 meters. It will be central to the space station's operations, given that astronauts will live there and control the entire station from inside. The module will also be capable of hosting scientific experiments.
The capsule will have three parts-a connecting section, a life-support and control section, and a resources section.
After the capsule is launched, astronauts on the Shenzhou XII and XIII missions and two cargo ships will be launched within a few months to prepare the module for docking with other parts of the station.
Tiangong's two space labs will then be launched in separate Long March 5B missions and two more manned missions and two robotic cargo flights will be made to continue construction of the station.
Long March 5B is the most powerful Chinese rocket when it comes to carrying capacity to the low-Earth orbit. It is essential to the space station program because it is now the only Chinese launch vehicle capable of carrying large space station parts to orbit.
A Long March 5B is 53.7 meters long, with a core-stage diameter of 5 meters. The rocket is propelled by liquid oxygen, liquid hydrogen and kerosene and has a liftoff weight of about 849 tons.
It conducted its maiden flight in May 2020 at the Wenchang space complex.