China’s space program is moving along nicely – on the 20th we had the launch of the Tianzhou 1 cargo craft, it successfully docking with their Tiangong-2 space station today, the 22nd. This launch not only marks China’s first automated docking and first flight of their future space station resupply vehicle, but also, thanks to the sheer mass of the cargo vehicle, makes this the largest payload they have launched into space.
The Chinese space program is shrouded in odd bits of secrecy – rarely do we see footage from it beyond launches (or at least, rarely can I find video) and I was amazed to find the actual docking of the Tianzhou 1 and Tiangong-2 station!
Currently Tiangong-2 is uncrewed – The Shenzhou 11 mission ended after 30 days on the station back in November, so it isn’t like anyone is unloading anything from the cargo craft- this purely serves as a test that they can, indeed, launch a massive cargo craft and dock it with their station, for their future modular space station plans.
Good job China. A damn good job.
Here we have video of the launch, showing up to the release of the craft, and the following video is a clip from a livestream showing the actual docking moment.