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


The China Manned Space Agency is pressing forward on its space station construction plans, “hiring” individuals to help shape the country’s next phase of human spaceflight.

Prototype of the Tianhe core module. China’s space station is expected to be operational around 2022.
Credit: CCTV/Screengrab/Inside Outer Space

China’s Xinhua news agency reports that preparations are underway for the upcoming “high-density” space missions to construct China’s space station. Additionally, the Long March-5B carrier rocket is set to launch elements of the Chinese space station and is now expected to make its maiden flight in 2020.

China’s human spaceflight program is moving forward on a multimodule space station in the 2020s.
Courtesy: CMSE

New hires

China Global Television Network (CGTN) reports new leaders of China’s Manned Space Engineering Project were announced at a press conference on Tuesday.

Zhou Jianping, a member of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, was hired as the chief designer.

This put an end to the project’s history of having leaders appointed, reports CGTN. Another position called “chief expert in space science” was also filled by hiring Gu Yidong, a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

According to an announcement by the China Manned Space Engineering Office, this change is “the inevitable requirement for the project to enter a new era of application development.”

Wang Zhonggui, Yang Liwei (China’s first astronaut), Chen Shanguang, Zhou Weifei, Liu Jin, Deng Yibing, Tang Yihua and Zhang Bonan were hired as deputy chief designers of China’s manned space exploration.


The Tianhe core module for China’s Space Station undergoes ground testing.
Credit: CCTV/ScreengrabNew astronauts

New astronauts

China is striving to finish construction of their space station around 2022.

Weighing 66 tons, the Tiangong space station will be T-shaped with the Tianhe core module at the center and the Wentian and Mengtian experiment capsules on each side. The orbital outpost could be enlarged to 180 tons, accommodating three to six crewmembers.

According to Zhou, the station is designed to last at least 10 years and could be prolonged through in-orbit maintenance.

Yang Liwei, the country’s first astronaut.
Credit: CMSE

Chinese docking mechanism

Zhou explained that China is selecting new astronauts for station missions.

After the construction of the station is completed, Zhou adds, China welcomes overseas astronauts to work together with domestic astronauts aboard the country’s station. International spacecraft can also be docked with China’s facility if they use a Chinese docking mechanism, Zhou said.

Credit: China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).


Key technologies

In a related Xinhua story earlier this week, Chinese first astronaut, Yang Liwei, said he was looking forward to setting foot on the Moon.

“China has started to develop the key technologies related to manned lunar landing. It would be exciting to see Chinese astronauts stepping onto the extraterrestrial object,” Yang said.

“Like all the other Chinese astronauts, I’m ready for the nation’s call,” Yang said. He made the remarks at the 16th anniversary of his flying into space aboard the Shenzhou-5 spacecraft on Oct. 15, 2003, according to the China Manned Space Agency.

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