Updated 11:29 AM EDT, Tue, Jun 16, 2020

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Tiangong-2 Space Station Launch still set for Sept. 15

New space station

(Photo : CNSA) Tiangong-2 being assembled.

China tries to make-up for the loss of the Tiangong-1 space station with a successful launch of the successor Tiangong-2 space station on Sept. 15.

Tiangong-2 will be China's second space station after Tiangong-1, which is in an uncontrolled freefall that will see it burn-up in the atmosphere, threatening people and infrastructure on the ground. Media reports last June described the fall of Tiangong-1 as "out of control."

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The Chinese government, however, has yet to issue a statement as to when the derelict space station will burn-up. The China National Space Administration (CNSA) also hasn't commented on the status of Tiangong-1 for the past several months. Tiangong-1 was launched in 2011.

Tiangong-2, originally built as a back-up to Tiangong-1, has a length of 14 meters and a diameter of 3.4 meters. It weighs 8,500 kilograms.

The new station has a larger payload capacity, allowing improved living conditions for its crew of three "yuhangyuans" (astronauts). The crew will be able to survive for 20 days without resupply. Tiangong-1 will be resupplied by the new Tianzhou logistics vehicle.

Aboard Tiangong-2, Chinese astronauts will conduct space science experiments on a relatively large scale compared to the previous efforts on Tiangong-1.

Tiangong-2, which is essentially an orbital laboratory, will also be equipped with a new robotic arm. it will be accompanied by a small Banxing-2 satellite for technology demonstrations.

Banxing-2 (the word means Companion Satellite) is a small technology development satellite that will capture images of the new station in orbit. Its predecessor, Banxing-1, accomplished the same mission for the Shenzhou 7 in September 2008.

Tiangong-2 will be launched by the Chang Zheng (Long March) 2F/T2 rocket, a variant of the launch vehicle used for the manned Shenzhou program. Engineers at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center are busy preparing the rocket for launch.

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