China’s first cargo spacecraft, Tianzhou-1, completed an automated fast-docking with the Tiangong-2 space lab at 11:58pm on Tuesday.
Controlled from Earth, Tianzhou-1 began to approach Tiangong-2 at 5:24pm and it took six and a half hours to complete the fast-docking with the space lab. It was the third docking between the spacecraft using fast-docking technology. Previously, docking took about two days.
The experiment tested the cargo spacecraft’s capability of fast-docking, laying a foundation for future space station building.
Tianzhou-1 was launched on April 20 from south China’s Hainan Province, and it completed the first and second docking with the space lab on April 22 and June 19.
The cargo spacecraft will conduct the third refueling of the space lab before returning to Earth.
The two spacecraft completed their first in-orbit refueling on April 27 and their second on June 15.
China is the third country, after Russia and the United States, to master refueling techniques in space, something that’s crucial in the building of a permanent space station.
Tiangong-2, which was launched on September 15 last year, is a key step in building a permanent space station.
Cargo ships play a crucial role by carrying supplies and fuel into orbit.