Artist view of China’s space station. Credit: CMSE

The China Manned Space Agency has stated the country will start launching preparatory tests for its manned space station mission in the second half of this year.

According to a report in China Daily, the agency said in a statement on Monday that the core module of the space station, a Long March 5B carrier rocket and payloads to be carried by the rocket’s maiden flight will be transported to the Wenchang Space Launch Site in the island province of Hainan in the second half of 2019 to conduct joint tests and drills.

Long March-5 booster’s first liftoff occurred in early November 2016. Mishap on launcher’s second flight in July 2017. A return-to-flight Long March-5 mission is slated for this year.
Credit: CASC

After those tests and drills, the Long March 5B rocket will carry out its debut flight at the Wenchang site at a proper time, the agency said. However, no time for the launch has been detailed.

Currently, the space station’s core module and a Long March 5B are under construction, the agency said, adding that it is also selecting and training astronauts for this mission.

Under construction

According to government plans previously made public, China will start putting together its first manned space station around 2020 and in the first step, a Long March 5B will put the station’s core module into orbit that year. Next, other components and astronauts will be ferried to the core module to assemble the station.

The space station is expected to be built and become fully operational around 2022 and is set to operate for about 15 years, according to the China Academy of Space Technology, contractor of the station’s development and construction.

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