China's Shenzhou 14 astronauts have opened up and entered the Tianzhou 5 cargo spacecraft after its docking at the country's newly completed space station.
Tianzhou 5 launched on Saturday (Nov. 12) atop a Long March 7 rocket and arrived at the Tiangong space station just over two hours later, setting a new record for shortest rendezvous and docking time. Previous Tianzhou freighters took about 6.5 hours from launch until docking.
Shenzhou 14 commander Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe opened the hatch door of Tianzhou 5 on Sunday (Nov. 13) at 0618 GMT (2:18 p.m. Beijing time), according to Chinese officials, and began taking stock of the new deliveries.
The cargo craft hauled around 11,000 pounds (5,000 kilograms) of goods and materials for the three crew members of the upcoming, six-month-long Shenzhou 15 mission, and 3,080 pounds (1,400 kg) of propellant to help the space station maintain its orbit.
"Tianzhou 5 is equipped with eight storage tanks, while the Tianzhou 3 and 4 only have four each. This time, it carries five sets of payload equipment for three space experiments. Two cell experiment units are brand-new," Zhang Zhenhua, deputy chief designer of the cargo spacecraft system at the China Academy of Space Technology, told CCTV+.
The 35-foot-long (10.6 meters) freighter also carried five cubesats that could be released later by using a payload airlock and release mechanism on Mengtian, the third and final space station module, which launched and joined Tiangong at the end of October.
The T-shaped Tiangong currently consists of the Tianhe core module and the Wentian and Mengtian experiment modules. Tianzhou 5 and the Shenzhou 14 crew spacecraft are also docked with Tiangong. Shenzhou 15 could launch for the space station as soon as the end of November.
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Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for Space.com 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.