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China's space station releases small test satellite into orbit Dec 29, 2022

China has released a small test satellite into orbit from its recently completed Tiangong space station.

The small test satellite was released from a deployer on the Tianzhou 5 cargo ship, which is currently docked at Tiangong. Tianzhou 5 launched on Nov. 12 with the primary mission of delivering supplies to the space station to support the three Shenzhou 15 mission astronauts but also carried a number of cubesats.

The 26.5-pound satellite designated XW-4  was released at 9:30 p.m. EST on Dec. 17. The small spacecraft, also known as the Macao Student Science Satellite 1, carries both optical camera and radio payloads. These will be available for amateur radio operators on the ground to use for two-way communications and to send instructions for taking images.

The satellite is tasked with helping students in Macao learn about Earth imaging, radio communication and other spaceflight activities, according to the China Manned Space Agency.

Tianzhou 5 is now connected to the Tiangong space station, where it is storing propellants, materials for scientific experiments and astronauts’ supplies.

The space agency said that to make the best use of the Tianzhou-series cargo ships’ abundant carrying capacity, scientists have used them to transport several payloads of scientific equipment and mini satellites to orbit. It said future Tianzhou missions will also offer educational opportunities to researchers at home and abroad.

Tiangong, also known as the “Heavenly Palace,” is a Chinese space station program. It involves the development and operation of a series of Chinese space stations, with the goal of conducting research and development in space.

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