Highlights

  • Chinese astronauts dock in space station
  • The new crew joins already present crew
  • New crew was carried by Shenzhou-15

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Watch: Chinese astronaut docks with space station

The station has now expanded to its maximum size, with three modules and three spacecraft attached for a total mass of nearly 100 tons.

Three Chinese astronauts docked early Wednesday with their country’s space station, where they will overlap for several days with the three-member crew already onboard and expand the facility to its maximum size.

Docking with the Tiangong station came at 5:42 a.m. Wednesday, about 6 1/2 hours after the Shenzhou-15 spaceship blasted off atop a Long March-2F carrier rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Tuesday night.

The six-month mission, commanded by Fei Junlong and crewed by Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu, will be the last in the station’s construction phase, according to the China Manned Space Agency.

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The station’s third and final module docked with the station earlier this month, one of the last steps in China’s effort to maintain a constant crewed presence in orbit.

The crew of the Shenzhou-15 will spend several days working with the existing 3-member crew of the Tiangong station, who will then return to Earth after their six-month mission.

The station has now expanded to its maximum size, with three modules and three spacecraft attached for a total mass of nearly 100 tons.

Tiangong can accommodate six astronauts at a time and the handover will take about a week. That marks the station’s first in-orbit crew rotation.

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