CHINA: The 23-ton Wentian laboratory module of China’s Tiangong space station was recently launched into orbit. As the space station orbits our planet, the new module rotates a sizable pair of “solar wings.”
The solar panels on the Tiangong space station can be seen rotating in a new video from the China National Space Administration (CNSA), like a helicopter.
The primary function of the Wentian laboratory is to provide a pressurised environment for researchers to carry out science experiments in freefall or zero gravity; experiments that could not be carried out on Earth for more than a few minutes.
It also serves as an additional source of navigation, propulsion, and orientation control as a backup to the Tianhe Core Module. After launching on July 24 at 03:30 UTC, it successfully docked with the main Tianhe module 13 hours later.
The Long March 5B space station’s launch itself was problematic since debris from the massive rocket that carried it was intended to make an uncontrolled re-entry into the Earth’s atmosphere.
The rocket’s debris was reported to have re-entered the atmosphere over the Indian Ocean around 12.45 PM EDT (10.15 PM IST) on July 30 by the US Space Command.
According to sources, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said that all space-faring countries should adhere to accepted best practices and do their part to communicate this kind of information beforehand to enable accurate projections of the danger of debris impact.
The Chinese space programme claims that doing so is crucial for both assuring responsible use of space and people’s safety on Earth.
Wentian’s solar panels are each close to 30 metres long, Each solar panel has an area of around 110 square metres, and they have a total wing span of more than 55 metres.
The International Space Station (ISS), which is substantially bigger, has solar arrays with a wingspan of 73 metres apiece. The combined area of the ISS solar array is around 2,400 square metres.