Chinese Modular Space Station: Tiangong

Info Shymkent - Tianhe is the Core Module of Chinese Space Station and is expected to launch in March 2021

China wants to build its own outpost in Orbit in 2021. The first module of the China’s modular space station will be the core module Tianhe. Info Shymkent had a look on this project and it’s activities.


  • Name: TianHe (天和) is Chinese for Heavens Harmony
  • Length: 18.1 m
  • Diameter: 4.1 m (living compartment)
  • Weight: 22.5 t (empty) / 24 t (with goods & equipment)
  • Docking ports: Five and one EVA hatch
  • Energy supply: Two 11 meter long and 4.6 meter width solar arrays
  • Expected life time: 10 years
  • Launch vehicle: Long March 5B
  • Flight profile: Inclination 41° / 350 km circular orbit
Info Shymkent - Technical description of Chinas's Space Station core module Tianhe
Descriptions of the Core Module Tianhe of the Chinese Space Station.

Mission Timeline

From Draft till Launch

21st September 1992: China revealed it’s manned space program – called Project 921 (Date: 9/21/1992) – to build in the third phase a long-term modular space station.

25th September 2010: Release of financial resources to built Project 921-3 – the manned modular space station Tiangong.

March 2011: China revealed the time schedule for building a modular space station and to launch the first core module in 2018. Two science modules will dock with the core module till 2022.

October 31, 2013: The core module of China’s first modular space station got the name Tianhe (Chinese: Milky Way).

April 2017: Final preparation, assembly and testing started for Tianhe.

2nd July 2017: The Long March 5 (LM5) rocket had a failure during its second launch. This rocket type is planned to bring Tianhe into orbit. The next flight of LM5 was in 27th December 2019. Because of the issue on the Long March 5 rocket the launch of the Tianhe module was delayed for two and a half years.

June 2018: First underwater training for future taikonauts started.

6th November 2018: A full-scale model of Tianhe was revealed at China International Aviation & Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai, China.

6th January 2021: The production of Long March 5B rocket for Tianhe was completed.

4th February 2021: The space station core module was delivered to the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center at Hainan Island, China.

23th February 2021: The Long March 5B rocket for the Chinese Space Station core module arrived at the spaceport Wenchang.

10th March 2021: The first crews which will visit the Chinese Space Station Tiangong were revealed. But take care with this information. The official final selection will be revealed just days before launch.

  • Shenzhou 12 (planned for 2021): Nie Haisheng (3rd flight), Deng Qingming (1st flight) and Ye Guangfu (1st flight)
  • Shenzhou 13 (planned for 2021): Liu Boming (2nd flight), Chen Dong (2nd) and Zhang Lu (1st flight)
  • Shenzhou 14 (planned for 2022): Liu Wang (2nd flight), Liu Yang (2nd flight) and Tang Hongbo (1st flight)
  • Shenzhou 15 (planned for 2022): Zhang Xiaoguang (2nd flight), Wang Yaping (2nd flight) and Cai Xuzhe (1st flight)

23rd April 2021: The Long March 5 rocket with the Tianhe module onboard was rolled to the launch pad at Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island, China.

Launch and Operation

29th April 2021: Launch of the Tianhe core module was on 29th April 2021 at 03:23 UTC.

2Rotating into correct inclination of 41°17.00s
3Booster separation174.83s
4Fairing separation223.40s
5Main Engine Cutoff (MECO)481.33s
6Compartment/TianHe module separation from the rocket486.83s
Time schedule of the launch of Long March 5B rocket with Tianhe module onboard.

29th May 2021: After CSNA checked all systems of Tianhe they launched the first cargo supply mission Tianzhou-2 with China’s unmanned cargo spacecraft Tianzhou to the station at the top of a Long March 7 from Wenchang Space Launch Center at 12:55 UTC. Docking between Tianzhou-2 and Tianhe occurred eight hours later at 21:01 UTC.

Info Shymkent
Unmanned cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-2 is the first spaceship visiting China’s space station core module Tianhe.

16th June 2021: The final crew for Shenzhou 12 was revealed. The commander is Nie Haisheng (3rd flight). Liu Boming (2nd flight) and Yang Hongbo (1st flight) are mission engineers.

17th June 2021: The first manned mission Shenzhou 12 to China’s Space Station was launched on 17th June 2021 at 01:22 UTC. It is China’s first manned mission after a gap of five years. The approach to the Tianhe module was with 6.5 hours very fast. Docking occurred 7:54 UTC and the Crew entered the Tianhe module at 10:48 UTC.

Info Shymkent - Current configuration of China's Space Station
Configuration of China’s Space Station after docking of Tianzhou-2.

4th July 2021: Liu Boming and Yang Hongbo went for the first time outside of the Chinese Space Station Tiangong. The left the space station via the EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity, “spacewalk”) hatch at the Tianhe module. It was China’s second EVA in history and was 6h and 46 minutes long. The main tasks was to test the new EVA suits, using the robotic arm during EVAs and to check a external video camera.

Info Shymkent - Current Configuration of China's Space Station after docking of Shenzhou 12
Current configuration of China’s Space Station after docking of Shenzhou-12.

20th August 2021: The second spacewalk (EVA) at China’s Space Station performed by Taigonauts Nie Haisheng & Liu Boming today in the morning lasted 5 hours 55 minutes and was a success. Next highlight will be the landing of Shenzhou-12 crew next month.

15th September 2021: The Long March 7 rocket with Tianzhou-3, the second cargo mission to the Chinese Space Station, arrived at the launch pad at Wenchang Space Port. It is expected that the launch will occur at 20th September around 07:00 UTC.

16th September 2021: In the morning Chinese manned spacecraft Shenzhou 12 undocked at 00:56 UTC from the Chinese Space Station Tiangong and moved close to the nadir port of the station to simulate a docking maneuver planned for upcoming manned mission Shenzhou 13.

17th September 2021: Shenzhou 12 landed around 5:30 UTC in the Gobi desert north-east of Jiuquan in China. Chinese astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo spent 90 days on China’s first modulare space station. The next manned mission on Shenzhou 13 is expected to launch in mid-October.

18th September 2021: The Tianzhou-2 spacecraft moved from the aft port at 2:25 UTC to the front port of Tianhe. The cargo spacecraft will transfer fuel to the space station.

Info Shymkent - China's Tianzhou 3 cargo spacecraft is docking with Tianhe
China’s Tianzhou 3 cargo spacecraft (right) is docking with Tianhe. Tianzhou 2 is still docked at the forward docking port (left).

20th September 2021: The Tianzhou-3 spacecraft was launched at 7:10 UTC from Wenchang Space Port in China. It will deliver additional equipment, propellant and food to the new China Space Station. Docking occurred as planned at 14:16 UTC at Tianhe’s aft docking port.

25th September 2021: The Ion thrusters of Tianhe core module was fired to test the thrusters and to increase the orbit of the space station.

15th October 2021: The launch of Shenzhou 13 occured on 15th October at 16:23 UTC. Docking happend 22:55 UTC at the same day. The spacecraft docked at the nadir (earth-facing) port of Tianhe. The crew is the backup crew of Shenzhou 12: Zhai Zhigang (翟志刚), Wang Yaping (王亚平) and Ye Guangfu (叶光富). Shenzhou 12 crew will spend over 6 months on the Chinese space station Tiangong and it is the first long-duration crew in China’s spaceflight history.

Info Shymkent - Manned Shenzhou-13 spacecraft is docking with China's Tiangong space station
Manned Shenzhou-13 spacecraft is docking with China’s Tiangong space station.

7th November 2021: The first spacewalk during Shenzhou-13 was performed by Zhai Zhigang and Wang Yaping. It was the first time in history that a Chinese female taikonaut carried out an EVA. The spacewalk was 6h 25m long.

26th December 2021: Ye Guangfu and Zhai Zhigang performed a second spacewalk during mission Shenzhou-13. Both Taikonauts spent 6h 11m on this EVA. Their tasks was to install a panoramic camera, move different science payloads outside of Tianhe.

15th April 2022: The Shenzhou-13 spacecraft with all taikonauts on board undocked from Tianhe at 16:44 UTC. The Shenzhou landed around 10 hours later at 16 April 2022, 01:56:49 UTC in Inner Mongolia, China. The Crew spend over 180 days in space. That is a Chinese record. It was Wang Yaping second spaceflight and she is holding now the Chinese record for the longest stay in space with 197 days.

9th May 2022: The cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-4 was launched 17:56 UTC from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on top of a Long March 7 rocket. The spacecraft docked at Tianhe’s aft port just under 6 hours after liftoff (10th May 00:54 UTC). The payload of Tianzhou-4 is 6,000 kg of fuel, food and equipment for the upcoming Shenzhou-14 mission.

29th May 2022: The roll-out of the Long March 2F rocket for the Chinese manned Shenzhou-14 mission to the launch site LA-4/SLS was carried out. The crew of Shenzhou-14 is still unclear.

2nd June 2022: The crew for Shenzhou-14 mission was revealed. The crew of Shenzhou-14 will be Cheng Dong (2nd flight), Liu Yang (was 1st woman in space and it is her 2nd flight) and Cai Xuzhe (1st flight).

5th June 2022: Shenzhou-14 was launched on top of a Long March 2F rocket from Jiuquan Space Center at 02:44 UTC. The docking with the Chinese Space Station at the nadir port of Tianhe happend seven hours later at 07:42 UTC. During the six-month-stay of the crew of Shenzhou-14 three spacewalks are planned and two new modules will be docked with Tianhe core module.

24th July 2022: The Wentian (Quest for the Heavens) module – the first of two science modules – was launched on the Long March 5B rocket from Wenchang Space Launch Site on 24th July 2022 at 6:22 UTC. The rollout of the rocket Long March 5B Y3 to the launch pad occurred – six days before – on 18th July 2022. Less then 13 hours after launch in Wenchang the Wentian science module docked at the Tianggong space station to the forward docking port of Tianhe module.

Info Shymkent - Illustration of the science module module Wentian of the Chinese modulare space station Tiangong
The Wentian module – here shortly after arriving orbit – is the first science module of Chinese Space Station Tiangong.

25th July 2022: The crew of Shenzhou-14 opened the hatches between Tianhe and Wentian for the first time and inspected the inside of the new science module.

1st September 2022: The first space walk was performed by Chen Dong and Liu Yang through airlock of the new science module Wentian. The spacewalk lasted for 6 hours and 7 minutes.

17th September 2022: Just close to two weeks later the taikonauts Chen Dong and Cai Xuzhe performed another space walk through the airlock of the science module Wentian to outfit the outside of the new module and the robotic arm with additional equipment.

30 September 2022: The Wentian science module has a small Lyappa arm to move itself to another docking port. This arm was used on this day to move from the forward port of Tianhe to the starboard port of the same module. This enabled the Chinese Space Station Tiangong to give way to the arrival of the second science module Mengtian at the forward port later this year.

31st October 2022: The Mengtian (Dreaming of Heavens) module – the second of two science modules was launched on the Long March 5B rocket from Wenchang Space Launch Site on 31st October 2022 at 7:37 UTC. Rollout of the rocket Long March 5B Y3 to the launch pad occurred on 26th October 2022.

Just around 13 hours after launch the Mengtian docked automatically at the forward port of the Tianhe core module at 31st October 20:27 UTC.

Info Shymkent - Illustration of the science module module Mengtian of the Chinese modulare space station Tiangong
The Mengtian module – here shortly after arriving orbit – is the second science module of Chinese Space Station Tiangong.

3rd November 2022: After the Mengtian module was moved from the forward docking port to the port docking port of Tianhe the Chinese modular space station Tiangong is completed. A free-flying space telescope will be launched in 2023 and will be flying close to the space station. It will be docked only temporary to the space station for maintenance work.

Info Shymkent - Illustration how the finished Chinese modulare space station Tiangong will look like
An Illustration how the Chinese modular space station Tiangong looked like on 4th November 2022.

9th November 2022: Tianzhou-4 undocked from China’s Modular Space Station Tiangong at 6:55 UTC. The cargo ship is making place for the upcoming Tianzhou-5 mission which will be launched at 12th November 2022.

12th November 2022: The Tianzhou-5 cargo mission was launched on 12th November 02:03 UTC to China’s modular space station. The spacecraft was on top of a Long March 7 rocket and lifted off from the space port Wenchang in China. The flight to the Chinese space station was a flight for the history books: In just 2 hours and 7 minutes after launch the Tianzhou-5 cargo spacecraft docked with Tiangong. This is 56 minutes (!) faster then the flight of Soyuz MS-17 in October 2020 to the International Space Station. The cargo spacecraft delievered fuel, food and equipment for the upcoming Shenzhou-15 mission to the space station.

29th November 2022: The launch of the manned Shenzhou spacecraft with Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu on board took place on a Long March 2F at 15:08 UTC at Jiuquan Cosmodrome in China. After docking with the space station at 21:42 UTC, about 6,5 hours after launch, the Chinese space station hosts six Chinese astronauts for the first time.