China prepping next space station cargo mission for May launch

Components of the Long March 7 rocket that will launch China's Tianzhou 6 cargo mission to the Tiangong space station arrived at the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan island on April 13, 2023.  (Image credit: CALT)

China is gearing up to send fresh supplies to its space station.

Components of a Long March 7 rocket arrived at the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan island, south China, on April 13 after shipping from the northern port city of Tianjin.

The rocket is now being assembled. It will launch the Tianzhou 6 cargo spacecraft to the Tiangong space station in the first half of May. 

Related: The latest news about China's space program

Tianzhou 6 had earlier been delivered to Wenchang and will carry supplies for astronauts for the Shenzhou 16 and Shenzhou 17 crewed missions, due to launch around late May and November this year, respectively. Tianzhou 6 will also carry propellant to be transferred to Tiangong to allow it to fire its engines and maintain its orbit.

The spacecraft notably features improvements over previous Tianzhou flight modules, according to Chinese space officials.

The manufacturer of Tianzhou spacecraft, the China Academy of Space Technology, has expanded the cargo capacity of the pressurized segments of Tianzhou by about 1,100 pounds (500 kilograms). This means that China now needs to launch just three supply missions every two years, instead of launching one every six months.

Tianzhou 6 and the following two Shenzhou crewed missions make up the three missions due to launch to Tiangong this year.

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Andrew Jones
Contributing Writer

Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI.