China sends three astronauts to Tiangon space station

BEIJING, Oct. 26: China launched the Shenzhou-17 manned spacecraft carrying a three-member crew to the Tiangong space station on Thursday from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the country’s north-central Gansu province,  according to a broadcast by the state-run China Central Television.

The launch took place as planned at 11:14 a.m. local time (03:14 GMT) with the Long March 2F carrier rocket. The crew includes astronauts Tang Shengjie, Jiang Xinlin and Tang Hongbo, the latter being the team’s commander. The crew of the Shenzhou-17 spacecraft will be the sixth on the Chinese space station, where they are expected to work for six months.

The crew will replace those from the Shenzhou-16 spacecraft who have been on board the Chinese orbital station since May 30, said Lin Xiqiang, the Deputy Director of the China Manned Space Agency.

The Tiangong space station is China’s first long-term orbital station. It operates in low Earth orbit between 210 and 280 miles above the surface. Its first module, Tianhe, was launched in 2021.

By the end of 2023, China aims to break last year’s national record for the number of space launches, 64, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation announced in January.