Chinese astronauts check out newly delivered space station supplies (video)

Astronauts aboard China's space station have entered a newly arrived cargo spacecraft to begin sorting and checking out the goods.

The freighter, called Tianzhou 7, launched on a Long March 7 rocket from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Jan. 17, arriving at the Tiangong space station just over three hours later.

Footage released on Tuesday (Jan. 23) by the China Manned Space Engineering Office shows the Shenzhou 17 astronauts opening the hatch to Tianzhou 7 and beginning the work of sorting through its cargo.

Related: The latest news about China's space program

The astronauts of China's Shenzhou 17 mission unload cargo from the Tianzhou 7 freighter aboard the Tiangong space station in January 2024. (Image credit: CCTV)

There are around 250 cargo packages inside Tianzhou 7's pressurized cabin with a total mass of about 12,350 pounds (5,600 kilograms). This material includes daily supplies for astronauts, maintenance kits and spare parts for space station equipment, samples for experiments and station propellant.

The supplies will feed Shenzhou 17 mission commander Tang Hongbo, 48, and his former fighter pilot crewmates, Tang Shengjie and Jiang Xinlin, for the remainder of their six-month-long mission in orbit. They will also provide for part of the future Shenzhou 18 mission.

Tianzhou 7 also bears Chinese New Year gift packages for the Shenzhou 17 astronauts, and gifts for the handover to the next crew to arrive at Tiangong.

Tiangong, which is about 20% as massive as the International Space Station, is a T-shaped structure consisting of three modules. Tianzhou 7 is the sixth cargo mission to arrive at the orbital outpost since its construction began in 2021.

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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.