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China completes design of Tianzhou cargo spacecraft

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Long March 7 launch vehicle at Tianjin Test Facility. Photo: China Aerospace Science & Technology Corporation

BEIJING (BNS): Chinese scientists and engineers will begin building a production-model of ‘Tianzhou’ having completed the design for the nation’s first cargo spacecraft.

The design and technology of the unmanned spacecraft have been approved by an expert panel from China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp and the China Academy of Space Technology, a Xinhua report said.

China is expected to launch Tianzhou or ‘Heavenly Vessel’ into space around 2016.

The cargo vehicle will deliver supplies to Tiangong-2 space laboratory which is planned to be put into orbit before the end of 2015.

China launched the first space laboratory and target orbiter Tiangong-1 in 2011.

Development of the Tianzhou cargo spacecraft began in July 2012 and is based on the design of the Tiangong-1, and Shenzhou manned spacecrafts.

The cargo spacecraft major tasks will be to refuel the manned space station and transport supplies including propellants, living necessities for astronauts and equipment for scientific research. It can also destroy various waste materials.

According to reports, three cabin structures are being designed for the cargo ship, a fully-enclosed one, a semi-open one and a wholly-open one.

Tianzhou will weigh 13 metric tons and its cargo capacity will be about 6 tons, China Science Daily quoting Zha Xuelei, deputy chief designer of the Tianzhou system, said.

The cargo vehicle will be launched atop China’s new-generation medium-lift carrier rocket CZ-7 (Long March 7) equipped with a new-generation engine from the newly built Wenchang Launch Centre in Hainan province.

A cargo transportation system that supplies materials and fuel is vital to China building its own space station which the government plans to make it operational by 2020, the report said.

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