China's 60-ton medium-size space station is depicted in this artwork. Credit: CNSA

China’s 60-ton medium-size space station is depicted in this artwork.
Credit: CNSA

China has made good on a previously stated interest in opening the airlocks on their future space station to other nations.

China expects that its space station will be operational around 2022 – a few years before the currently orbiting International Space Station is to reach its end-of-life.

The core module of China’s space station –Tianhe-1– is to be launched in 2018.

New agreements

According to a June 16 UN Information Service statement: “The United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) and the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) have agreed to work together to develop the space capabilities of United Nations Member States via opportunities onboard China’s future space station.”

New agreements set the stage for UNOOSA and CMSA to work together to enable United Nations Member States – chiefly developing countries — to conduct space experiments onboard China’s space station, as well as to provide flight opportunities for astronauts and payload engineers.

Space station utilization

“Space exploration is the common dream and wish of humankind. We believe that the implementation of the agreements will definitely promote international cooperation on space exploration, and create opportunities for United Nations Member States, particularly developing countries, to take part in, and benefit from, the utilization of China’s space station,” said CMSA Deputy Director General Wu Ping in a UN press statement.

Long March 7 first flight

Elements of China's Long March 7 booster manufactured in Tianjin. Credit: CASC

Elements of China’s Long March 7 booster manufactured in Tianjin.
Credit: CASC

Meanwhile, China is set to launch its Long March 7 carrier booster this month, on June 25according to media reports. This inaugural flight of the booster will depart from China’s new Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in southernmost Hainan Island.

This first Long March 7 flight carries a sub-scale version of a new re-entry capsule that is destined to support human spaceflight.

Cargo vessels

Long March 7 is designed to hurl Tianzhou cargo vessels to supplement space station operations. This supply ship is slated to fly early next year, latching up with and refueling the soon-to-be-orbited Tiangong-2 (Temple II) space lab.

Tiangong-2 is being final checked for its boost into Earth orbit this September.

If Tiangong-2 is successfully launched, a two-person Shenzhou-11 mission is to board the space lab this October for a month-long live-in.

A February look at China's Shenzhou-11 piloted spacecraft in testing. Credit: CCTV/framegrab via GBTimes.

A February look at China’s Shenzhou-11 piloted spacecraft in testing.
Credit: CCTV/framegrab via GBTimes.

 

Enter Long March 5

Lastly, yet another milestone for China will be the September maiden voyage of its Long March 5.

This “heavy lift” booster is not only assigned the duty to hurl space station modules into Earth orbit, it is on tap to enable robotic return sampling of the Moon and rocket a robotic lander/rover mission to Mars in 2020.

 

For a You Tube video on China’s Long March-7 rocket shipped to Hainan for its maiden flight, go to:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bX6DOAYt-HU

 

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