A Long March 2F rocket will blast off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on November 29, 2022, carrying three taikonauts on a mission that is expected to put the finishing touches on the Tiangong space station.
Shenzhou 15 will be the first manned mission to the station after two of its modules, the Wentian and the Mengtian, were docked. The modules were delivered to the station onboard Long March 5 rockets in July and October 2022, completing the station’s structure.
Three taikonauts from the previous mission, Shenzhou 14, are currently residing in the station, and the arrival of Shenzhou 15 will bring the orbital laboratory to its final configuration, consisting of three modules and three spaceships. The crew will work on the station for half a year and return to Earth in May 2023, after handing Tiangong over to the crew of Shenzhou 16, according to Chinese state news agency Xinhua.
Meanwhile, taikonauts Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu will finish attaching the Mengtian module and install 15 equipment cabinets, in addition to testing and verifying the station’s equipment.
Following the completion, the station will have a total mass of nearly 100 tons, almost one-fourth of the mass of the International Space Station (ISS).
China’s first long-term space station, Tiangong has been in construction since the launch of Tianhe, its core module, in April 2021.