China has big plans for its Tiangong space station

(ORDO NEWS) — China will launch six major missions before the end of the year to complete the construction of the Tiangong space station, which the space industry says will soon be able to link up with a powerful telescope, as well as engage in commercial activities and invite international astronauts.

Details were revealed at a press conference on April 17, which took place a day after the Shenzhou 13 astronauts returned from a record-breaking 182-day mission aboard the Tiangong core module.

According to Hao Chun, director of the China Manned Spacecraft Development Administration (CMSEO), the six critical missions will begin in May with a resupply flight, followed by a six-month crewed Shenzhou 14 mission in June.

The second Wentian (Heaven-Asking) module will join Tianhe in orbit in July, while the third and final module, Mengtian (Heaven-Dreaming), is scheduled to launch in October.

The Tianzhou 5 cargo spacecraft and the Shenzhou 15 crewed spacecraft will launch at the end of the year, when the first crew change will take place at the station, with Shenzhou 14 astronauts welcoming newcomers aboard thanks to additional living quarters in the Wentian module. .

Once fully assembled, Tiangong will host six-month crewed missions during which the astronauts will conduct a series of experiments and outreach activities. The experiments will mainly focus on life sciences, microgravity research, astronomy, earth sciences, new materials and space technologies, Chinese space industry officials said.

According to the original plan from 1992, the three-module Tiangong station was supposed to receive crews without interruption for 10 years. Two crewed spacecraft and two cargo spacecraft will be launched each year.

The Xuntian Space Telescope, which will orbit alongside Tiangong and be able to dock for refueling and maintenance, is due to launch in late 2023, Hao said.

“The telescope will carry out cutting-edge scientific research on the formation and evolution of the universe, dark matter and dark energy, exoplanets and solar system objects, and is expected to provide a number of major innovation breakthroughs,” said Hao.

However, CMSEO is also considering expanding both the space station itself and the scope of its activities, as well as introducing new ways to get to Tiangong.

“We are developing expandable modules and spacecraft cabins to conduct more experiments and provide better living conditions for astronauts,” Hao said.

According to previously announced expansion plans, the Tiangong could be expanded to six modules, with the addition of new versions of the Tianhe and experimental Wentian and Mengtian modules.

A next-generation reusable launch vehicle, capable of carrying up to seven astronauts, is also in development. China is currently using the Long March 2F rocket and the Shenzhou spacecraft to launch its astronauts into orbit.

In the near future, commercial flights may also be organized on Tiangong. ”

When asked about international cooperation, Hao said that China “will certainly carry out deeper exchanges and cooperation with all countries in the world committed to the peaceful use of outer space.”

In March, Yang Liwei, who made history in 2003 by becoming the first Chinese astronaut to reach space, told the media that untrained astronauts could fly to Tiangong perhaps before the end of the decade.

However, first China needs to complete the Tiangong. The next launch will be the Tianzhou-4 cargo ship. The 13,500-kilogram spacecraft will take off on a Long March 7 rocket from the Wenchang Space Center and deliver fuel and supplies to the Shenzhou 14 spacecraft, which is expected to launch in June.


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