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China is preparing to launch astronauts to its own space station - TWIRL #135

TWIRL logo in front of the Tiangong space station

In This Week in Rocket Launches, China is planning to launch several astronauts to its Tiangong Space Station. The crew isn’t known yet but they will join three astronauts who are already residing in orbit. Be sure to check the recap section for India’s Gaganyaan crew module launch too.

Sunday, 22 October

  • Who: SpaceX
  • What: Falcon 9 B5
  • When: 2:49 a.m. - 6:47 a.m. UTC
  • Where: Space Launch Complex 40, Cape Canaveral, Florida, US
  • Why: SpaceX will be launching 23 Starlink mini satellites into a low Earth orbit to bolster the Starlink constellation and beam internet back down to customers on Earth. The satellites are designated Starlink Group 6-24 and will appear on apps like ISS Detector if you want to try spotting them when they are in orbit.

Monday, 23 October

  • Who: CNSA
  • What: Long March 2D
  • When: 8:03 p.m. UTC
  • Where: Xichang Satellite Launch Centre
  • Why: China will launch three Yaogan 39 satellites on a Long March 2D rocket. These satellites are remote sensing satellites that will be used for scientific experiments, land and resource surveys, agricultural production estimates, and disaster prevention and mitigation.

Thursday, 26 October

  • Who: CNSA
  • What: Long March 2F/G
  • When: 3:13 a.m. UTC
  • Where: LC-43/91 Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre
  • Why: The Long March rocket will launch the Shenzhou 17 spacecraft carrying a crew to the Tiangong Space Station. It marks China’s twelfth crewed space mission. It’s not clear who the crew is going to be on this mission but they will be greeted by Jing Haipeng, Gui Haichao, and Zhu Yangzhu when they arrive.

Saturday, 28 October

  • Who: SpaceX
  • What: Falcon 9 B5
  • When: 9:07 p.m. UTC
  • Where: Space Launch Complex 40, Cape Canaveral, Florida, US
  • Why: SpaceX will launch two O3b mPOWER broadband internet satellites into a medium Earth orbit on a Falcon 9 rocket for the Luxembourgish company SES. The satellites were built by Boeing and will help to provide internet services over the world.


  • The first launch last week was a Long March 2D carrying the Yunhai 1 04 satellite. This satellite will observe atmospheric, marine, and space environments and provide disaster prevention and mitigation services.
  • Next up, SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 carrying more Starlink satellites. The first stage of the rocket also landed so that it can be reused.
  • Finally, India used a test vehicle to launch its Gaganyaan Crew Module where it performed an in-flight abort demonstration of the Crew Escape System.

That’s all for this week, check back next time.

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