iChongqing Title

Wentian Laboratory Blasted off with Key Materials Made in Chongqing


Chongqing-The Long March-5B Y3 carrier rocket, carrying the Wentian laboratory module, blasted off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Southern China’s Hainan Province at 2:22 p.m. (Beijing Time) on July 24.

About 495 seconds later, Wentian separated from the rocket and entered the planned orbit, according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA). 

As the hard-core base for ensuring the research and development (R&D) of aluminum alloy material for China’s space project, Southwest Aluminum (Group) Co., Ltd provided more than 70% and 60% of key aluminum alloy materials to the Wentian laboratory module and the Long March-5B Y3 carrier, covering forgings, plates, profiles, pipes, and other major categories of more than ten specifications varieties.


The Long March-5B Y3 carrier rocket, carrying the Wentian laboratory module, blasted off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Southern China’s Hainan Province at 2:22 p.m. (Beijing Time) on July 24. (iChongqing file photo)

Original core forging technology

The oversized skin diaphragms for the main bulkhead structure provided by Southwest Aluminum for Wentian laboratory have high technical requirements such as high metallurgical quality, high performance, and high surface quality.

Due to the large size of the components and the high comprehensive performance requirements of the materials, it is extremely difficult to produce.

To this end, the R&D team has overcome key technologies such as precise control of alloy composition, large-scale ingot forming, metallurgical quality control, wide sheet rolling profile, surface quality control, and quenching structure uniformity control.

The company solved related production technical problems and obtained a series of patented technologies in the fields of melting and casting, thermal processing, heat treatment, and others. 

In addition, the 5-meter ring for the Long March-5B Y3 is the largest aluminum alloy forging ring used in China’s rockets at present. This is successfully developed by the research and development team of Southwest Aluminum by overcoming technical difficulties, and its original core forging technology has filled the domestic gap. 

Southwest Aluminum

Southwest aluminum cold rolling mill is rolling aluminum alloy coils. (iChongqing file photo)

So far, Southwest Aluminum has also tackled the technical issues of forging and rolling deformation, heat treatment, and cold deformation by starting the 5m ring quality improvement project so that the elongation and performance of the products have increased by 20% and 10% respectively, reaching the advanced world level. 

Allowing astronauts to stay in orbit

As the first laboratory module of the Tiangong space station, a space station being constructed by China in low Earth orbit between 340 and 450 km, the Wentian laboratory module is targeted to be capable of implementing unified management and control of the space station assembly, with the core module for docking, transporting, and berthing. 

Additionally, it is expected to allow astronauts to stay in orbit, provide special airlock cabins and emergency shelters to ensure their safety, and support scientific experiments and technical experiments in and out of cabins. 

With its large size, vital function, complicated structure, and advanced indicators, the Wentian laboratory module, marking the wisdom and efforts of the Chinese people, has made several breakthroughs in producing spacecraft. It is another significant milestone for China’s space efforts to achieve high-level technology. 

(Yang Qinmei, as an intern, also contributed to this report.)


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