China’s space station program is advancing steadily, an orbital facility that is targeted to be complete around 2022. In the meantime, Chinese astronauts are actively preparing mentally and physically for future long-term stays onboard the space station.
According to Zhang Yulin, deputy commander-in-chief of the program, China’s space station will consist of three 20-ton modules, namely one core module and two experimental modules.
New booster demand
In an interview with China Central Television (CCTV) Zhang said:
“Our work on the space station is two aspects…one is to launch it into the space. For this, our rockets like the Long March-2F we used in the past and Long March-7 we use now are not capable enough, so we need a new carrier rocket with a capacity of carrying over 20 tons to the space.”
To produce such a rocket, Zhang added that by using the technology of Long March-5 a Long March-5B is under development.
“Currently the work is going smoothly. We plan to make its maiden flight in 2019,” Zhang said.
“The other aspect of our work is to launch our key module for the space station, which is what we call the core module,” Zhang said.
China’s space station, though weighing only 60 tons, will be like the Mir Space Station and the International Space Station in that it is a combination of multi-modules, Zhang added.
Zhang emphasized that the country’s space station is independently developed, including the key technology in its construction. Drawing upon 20 years of human spaceflight, he said the self-developed space station “is completely different.”
According to Liu Yang, China’s first woman in space aboard Shenzhou-9 in 2012, the country’s astronauts are now undergoing training for long duration stays on the space station.
“In addition, we need to have some physical preparation for the long-term staying in space. And some routine trainings like rendezvous and docking as well as walking out of capsule and repairing. These will be the normal training for the astronauts,” Liu said in another CCTV interview.
For example, Liu added, the longest space trek to date of their last crew was 33 days. “But it will be extended to three months or half a year, or longer in the future,” she said.
Narrow and small space
“In addition, living and working in the narrow and small space…also has a higher requirement on astronauts mentally. The long-time team coordination and cooperation and coexistence in the small space require our astronauts to have better psychological quality,” Liu said.
The three-module makeup of China’s space station, including one core module, requires the country’s astronauts to study for those technical changes, Liu said. Furthermore, carrying out experiments onboard the facility is yet another demand on the station occupants, she said.
“In addition, they must grasp the skills of the technology like rendezvous and docking and walking out of capsule and repairing. This will be a routine task,” said Liu.
Check out these CCTV-Plus videos regarding China’s space station work: