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TWIRL 89: China set to extend its space station with the Mengtian module

The TWIRL logo in front of a Long March 5B

We have a busy week ahead of us. China is launching another module for the Chinese Space Station, SpaceX is launching a MicroSat for the U.S. Space Force, and Northrop Grumman is launching a cargo mission to the International Space Station. These are all pretty interesting launches, which we don’t see too often.

Monday, October 31

The first launch of the week is a Chinese Long March 5B rocket, taking off from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center at 7:36 a.m. UTC. This is an exciting launch because the rocket is taking the third module of the Chinese Space Station into orbit. The module is called Mengtian and include an airlock to move cargo between the interior and exterior of the space station. When Mengtian docks with the rest of the craft, it will add another 17.9 metres (59 feet) to the Chinese Space Station, which could make it easier to see from Earth.

Tuesday, November 1

The next launch of the week will be conducted by SpaceX from Florida at 1:40 p.m. UTC. The company will launch a Falcon Heavy rocket carrying a payload called TETRA 1 for the U.S. Space Force. It’s not known what the TETRA 1 MicroSat will be used for, only that it will be used to “prototype missions and tactics, techniques and procedures in and around geosynchronous Earth orbit.” This mission should be streamed on SpaceX’s launch page.

Thursday, November 3

SpaceX will also be carrying out the third launch of the week, this time from Cape Canaveral in Florida at 3:25 a.m. UTC. A Falcon 9 will launch carrying the Hotbird 13G television broadcasting satellite which will provide services in Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East. You’ll be able to tune in to the launch on SpaceX’s launch page.

Saturday, November 5

At 3:20 a.m. UTC, China will launch a Long March 3B/E carrying the Zhongxing communications satellite. There’s not too much information about this satellite, and it’s unlikely to be streamed live. Be sure to check the recap next week for video footage of the launch and more details about the satellite.

Sunday, November 6

The final launch of the week will be a Northrop Grumman Antares rocket, which will launch a Cygnus cargo freighter to the International Space Station. The operational cargo delivery mission is called NG-18, and the spacecraft has been called the SS Sally Ride. It’s flying as part of NASA’s commercial resupply services (CRS) contract. The rocket will take off at 10:50 a.m. from Wallops Island in Virginia. You can watch the launch live on YouTube.


The first launch last week was a Soyuz 2.1a carrying the Progress MS-21 spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station. It took off from Baikonur Cosmodrome and delivered food, fuel, and other supplies.

The next launch was a Falcon 9 carrying 53 Starlink satellites into low Earth orbit. These satellites beam internet connectivity to the Earth.

Finally, a Long March 2D launched the Shiyan 20C satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The satellite will be used for testing new technologies such as space environment monitoring.

That's all we have this week, be sure to check back in next week.

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