China is ready for its latest mission to its newly completed Tiangong space station.
A Long March 7 rocket carrying the robotic Tianzhou 5 cargo spacecraft rolled out to its pad at the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan island early on Wednesday (Nov. 9), China’s human spaceflight agency announced (opens in new tab).
Tianzhou 5 is expected to launch to the Tiangong space station late on Friday (Nov. 11) Eastern time (early Saturday, Nov. 12, GMT). The spacecraft will deliver supplies to Tiangong for the upcoming, six-month-long Shenzhou 15 crewed mission, which could launch as soon as the end of November.
China’s Tianzhou cargo spacecraft weigh about 29,760 pounds (13,500 kilograms), with a cargo capacity of roughly 15,200 lbs. (6,900 kg).
China recently completed Tiangong following the launch earlier this month of its third and final module, named Mengtian, which has subsequently moved to a side port on the space station, making way for Tianzhou 5 to arrive.
Tianzhou 5 will be China’s 10th space station mission. The first, in April 2021, was the launch of the Tianhe core module. The Wentian and Mengtian experiment modules joined Tianhe in recent months, following a number of cargo and crew missions.
Tiangong is currently hosting the three Shenzhou 14 astronauts Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe. The trio will welcome aboard the currently unnamed Shenzhou 15 crew before the end of the year to mark the first crew handover aboard Tiangong.