On another topic – recently, we saw CMSA release publicly the first picture ever of Wentian, which is one of the two experimental modules of the Chinese Space Station, and scheduled for launch later this summer. This week, we made a deep dive into this module in our weekly episode
Firstly, as a brief recap, the CSS is composed of 3 modules: the Tianhe-1 core module which is already in orbit and that serves as the main headquarters for the taikonauts and the control center of the space station. Next, Wentian and Mengtian, are experimental modules dedicated more specifically to space sciences. Visually speaking, Wentian looks quite similar to Tianhe-1. Despite the apparent similarities, there are actually quite a few differences - among which propulsion: similar to Tianhe-1, Wentian has a number of thrusters for attitude control, but rather than have them all around the propulsion unit as it’s the case on Tianhe-1, they are spread out between the large and smaller cylindrical modules.
Second, Wentian will extend the number of living quarters to 6 by providing 3 additional sleeping spaces, on top of the 3 sleeping areas in the Tianhe-1 core module. Third, Wentian, as well as Mengtian, will have massive solar arrays, and they will become the main energy source for the CSS as they are much larger than the current ones on Tianhe-1.
Fourth, while the Tianhe-1 core module already has one large 10m long robotic manipulator, Wentian also has the specificity of having its own smaller 5m-long robotic arm. This arm can be combined with the main robotic arm to form a massive 15m-long robotic arm which can reach anywhere of the future completed space station, thanks to its ability to crawl, using the arm attachments situated all around the station.
Lastly, as you’d expect from an experimental module, Wentian will be chock-full of experiments. As an example, the external bay will be helpful for experiments which are aiming at being exposed to the space environment, vacuum & solar radiation – for example for breeding new species of crops.