The International Space Station now has a new companion, as China recently launched its own orbiting space station. Chinese astronauts completed a spacewalk on Friday, August 20, to install equipment outside the station, marking the second spacewalk in the new station’s lifetime. Named Tiangong, which means “heavenly palace,” the station has already seen a first spacewalk within a few weeks of its launch.
The second spacewalk was performed by astronauts Liu Boming and Nie Haisheng, and details of the spacewalk were announced by the China Manned Space Agency, via space.com. They exited the station’s core module at 10:12 a.m. Beijing time on Friday, August 20 (10:13 p.m. EDT on Thursday, August 19) and spent four hours working on the exterior of the station. They worked on moving equipment around the station using the robotic arm and also installing a backup part of the air conditioning system.
There is one more crew member aboard the station, Tang Hongbo, who stayed inside to support his two colleagues as they worked outside during the spacewalk. The station currently has just one module, its core module called Tianhe or “Harmony of the Heavens,” but there are plans to expand this will two further modules to act as science laboratories.
China is gearing up its presence in space in a big way. With the launch of the new space station, it will soon start sending up uncrewed ships to the station to deliver cargo. As reported by the Guardian, China will launch an uncrewed Tianzhou 3 cargo ship using a Long March 7 rocket carrying supplies in advance of the arrival of its second crew later this year.
The cargo ship will be launched shortly before the crew launch, in a similar manner to how the first supply and human launch was performed. The launch of the new crew is expected to take place in October, with astronauts performing a six-month stay on the new station.
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