china station (4)

China is considering the prospect of moving up their space station agenda, according to recent news reports in that country.

A recent China Daily story explains that the first of three experimental modules for China’s planned space station is expected to be launched in 2018, with the other two set for launch in 2020 and 2022.

Those modules would be the foundation to form a 60-ton space station.

The report quotes Gu Yidong, an academic at the Chinese Academy of Sciences and a leading research expert in manned space stations. “We set the date as a preliminary goal,” the scientist said.

The date change reflects a number of factors, Gu said, that can influence a launch date. “This is a common feature in international research,” he said at a recently held Beijing forum on space research.

China Daily also noted that, since the International Space Station is expected to be retired in about 2024, China’s station could be the only remaining base for humans in space.

Specialized duties

Chinese space researchers are drafting a plan on how best to utilize the country’s space station to facilitate scientific inquiry.

Gao Ming is director of the technology and engineering center for space utilization under the Chinese Academy of Sciences, which is in charge of drafting the plan.

She said that China’s space station will accommodate specialized lab duties for a number of purposes, such as applied physics, as well as Earth observation to monitor the environment and for disaster response purposes.

Chinese scientists are hopeful that the details of any international cooperation in using their space station can be detailed later this year.

China Daily also reported that the country will launch the Tiangong-2 space lab next year which will test the technology to sustain astronauts for longer periods in space as well as conduct experiments.

China's new spaceport is taking shape on Hainan Island.  Credit: CMSE

China’s new spaceport is taking shape on Hainan Island.
Credit: CMSE

New booster: CZ-7

Meanwhile, the China Manned Space Office has posted notice that work is progressing on the CZ-7 rocket. That booster is China’s new-generation medium-lift launch vehicle with a low-Earth orbit capacity of 13.5 tons. It is designed to launch Tianzhou cargo spaceships for construction of the future space station.

Tianzhou cargo vehicles will be launched atop CZ-7 carrier rocket from the newly-built Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, located near Wenchang on the north-east coast of Hainan Island.

Fabrication of China's CZ-7 booster is progressing. Credit: CASC

Fabrication of China’s CZ-7 booster is progressing. Credit: CASC

A first joint rehearsal of the CZ-7 rocket and Tianzhou cargo vehicle will be conducted later this year.

Niu Hongguang, Deputy Chief Commander of the China Manned Space Office said the upcoming rehearsal is challenging, involving adoption of a brand-new launch vehicle, spaceship, launch pad, technical process, command and control system, with the booster transported by sea for the first time.

One Response to “China Eyes Speed-up in Space Station Plans?”

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