Mengtian space lab to undergo final tests before launch

China's Mengtian space lab module and its carrier, a Long March 5B rocket, arrive at a service tower at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province, Oct 25, 2022. [Photo by Su Dong/For]

China's Mengtian space lab module and its carrier — a Long March 5B rocket — were moved to a service tower on Tuesday morning to undergo final tests before their planned flight in the coming days, according to the China Manned Space Agency.

The agency said in a brief news release that prelaunch preparation work is underway at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in the southernmost island province of Hainan. No further details were given.

Mengtian, the second lab component of China's Tiangong space station, was transported to Wenchang by ship in early August. It received fuel earlier this month at the launch center.

The lab module is about 17 meters long, has a diameter of 4 meters and weighs more than 20 metric tons, according to its designers at the China Academy of Space Technology.

Scientific equipment onboard will be used for microgravity studies and to carry out experiments in fluid physics, materials science, combustion science and fundamental physics.

Wentian, Tiangong station's first lab module, was launched on July 24 on a Long March 5B heavy-lift rocket from the Wenchang center.

Tiangong is currently composed of four modules: the Tianhe core module, the Wentian lab, the Tianzhou 4 cargo ship and the Shenzhou XIV spacecraft.

After Mengtian is connected with the Tiangong, the station will form a T-shaped structure and astronauts will have as much as 110 cubic meters in their usable space.

After the labs, the Tianzhou 5 cargo craft and the Shenzhou XV crew are scheduled to arrive at the massive orbiting outpost around the end of the year.