China Sends Wentian Lab Module To Space

Chinese Wentian space module launch
Credit: State Media Global Times

SINGAPORE—China has sent the Wentian lab module to space, lifting off from the Wenchang Space Launch Site on the Long March-5B Y3 carrier rocket 

Measuring 17.9 m (58.7 ft.) and weighing 23 metric tons, Wentian is the country’s largest payload, longer and heavier than the Tianhe core module. China says it is the heaviest single space module in active service in the world and the second largest singular sealed cabin. 

Translated as “Quest for the Heavens,” Wentian has a working cabin, a larger airlock cabin, three sleeping areas and a lavatory, doubling the space station’s capacity. The airlock also has a 1-m exit door, enabling easily conducted astronaut extravehicular activities with larger tools. 

Outside the cabin are 22 “interfaces” for future payloads and experimental equipment, which can be installed by its own 5-m robotic arms without intervention from the astronauts.

The China Manned Space Program told state media Global Times that Wentian will focus mainly on the study of space life sciences. They cover the growth, development, genetics and aging of multiple species of plants, animals and micro-organisms under space conditions.

The July 24 launch was also the Long March-5B’s third liftoff since its first, in May 2020. As China’s most powerful rocket, it can bring a 25-metric-ton  payload to low-Earth orbit. The Tianhe core module was sent to space with the Long March-5 on April 2021.

Chen Chuanren

Chen Chuanren is the Southeast Asia and China Editor for the Aviation Week Network’s (AWN) Air Transport World (ATW) and the Asia-Pacific Defense Correspondent for AWN, joining the team in 2017.