TWIRL 74: China set to launch an extension for its space station called Wentian

The TWIRL logo in front of stars

We have an interesting week in rocket launches next week, there will be two Starlink satellite launches followed by the launch of the Wentian module which will attach to the Tiangong Space Station (TSS). If you are lucky enough to be in a part of the world where the TSS passes overhead, the expansion of the station could make it easier to see from Earth.

Thursday, July 21

The first launch of the week is a SpaceX Falcon 9 from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. It will be carrying 46 Starlink satellites that will sit in a polar low Earth orbit and beam internet connectivity back down to ground stations. By expanding the Starlink network, SpaceX will be able to offer the services to people in more countries. The launch will be viewable on SpaceX’s website, with the launch scheduled for 5:13 p.m. UTC.

Sunday, July 24

SpaceX has another Starlink mission on Sunday, this time a Falcon 9 will take off from Florida with 53 Starlink satellites. The satellites with be placed in a low Earth orbit. Just like the other launch, you’ll be able to watch it live on SpaceX’s website, but we don’t know what time the launch is due for yet.

Also taking place on Sunday is the launch of a Long March CZ-5B rocket carrying the Wentian module for the TSS. The mission is slated to launch at 4:12 a.m. UTC from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center. The new module is described as a Laboratory Cabin Module because it enables various science experiments. It allows researchers to perform free fall or zero gravity experiments that are not possible for long on Earth. It will also enable experiments on the outside of the module to test exposure to the space environment, cosmic rays, vacuum, and solar winds.

The launch probably won't be streamed live, but there should be plenty of footage after the event of the launch and docking. We’ll be sure to bring everything that’s available in a future TWIRL recap.

Recap

The first launch last week was a Falcon 9 carrying Starlink satellites. It’s a fantastic launch video because SpaceX has aerial footage of the Falcon 9 breaking through the thick fog or clouds that were present.

Next, a Long March 3B launched the Tianlian-2 03 satellite which will act as a relay between satellites in orbit and ground stations.

On Wednesday, Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket carried the NROL-162 mission successfully to space. The satellite itself is classified because it’s related to national security.

Next up, Arianespace’s Vega-C rocket was launched for the very first time.

Here’s the separation of the LARES-2 payload that the Vega-C rocket was carrying.

SpaceX launched a Falcon 9 topped with a Dragon capsule as part of a commercial resupply contract it has with NASA.

Here’s footage of the Dragon docking with the ISS.

Finally, a Long March 2C carried the SuperView Neo 2-01 and 2-02 remote sensing satellites to space, where they will perform a variety of commercial remote sensing operations.

That’s all we have this week, be sure to check in next time.

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