Scientific experiment apparatus on Tiangong-2 put into operation

Updated: 2016-09-24 12:37


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BEIJING - Scientific apparatus carried by Tiangong-2 began operational at around 6:41 pm Thursday Beijing Time after being on standby mode for nearly seven days since the space lab entered its preset orbit on Sept 15.

"Most of the scientific payload will be put into operation in the next 30 hours," said Guo Lili, director with the payload operation and application center at the Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Nearly 100 ground operators, including staff from the operation and application center, payload developers and subscribers to related applications, are coordinating in the operation.

The space lab of Tiangong-2 will dock with the Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft later this year and the country's first cargo space ship Tianzhou-1 in 2017, according to experts.

Its predecessor Tiangong-1, which was launched in 2011 and docked with the Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spaceships, was mainly used to verify technology involved in space docking and serve as a simple platform for a number of scientific experiments, said Wu Ping, deputy director of China's manned space engineering office.

In comparison, Tiangong-2 hosts many more experiments and is taken as China's first space lab "in the strict sense."

Its payloads include POLAR, a collaboration between Swiss, Polish and Chinese institutions to study gamma ray bursts, and a cold atomic space clock, which scientists say only loses one second in about 30 million years.

Also piggybacking on the Tiangong-2 launch is a robotic arm that can be used for on-orbit repairs, and a micro satellite that will orbit close to the space lab and snap on to Tiangong-2 and the visiting Shenzhou-11 spacecraft crew.