Credit: CMSA

A third edition of the Global Exploration Roadmap has been issued, a report that includes a step-by-step explanation of China’s future space station objectives for the 2020s.

The newly issued Roadmap outlines the interests of 14 space agencies that belong to the ISECG, a group that includes the China National Space Administration.

Two phases

As cited in the ISECG 2018 report:

In September 2010, the Chinese government approved the implementation of their space station project.

China’s Space Station project is organized in two phases:

  • the first phase includes the Space Laboratory;
  • the second phase includes construction of a Space Station.

The Tiangong 2 Space Laboratory was launched in September 2016. Then, the Shenzhou-11 crewed spacecraft and cargo spacecraft docked with the lab.

Credit: CMS

Core, specialized modules

The China Space Station consists of a core module and two specialized modules with the complex having an orbital inclination of 42 degrees and an altitude of approximately 547-724 miles (340-450 kilometers), explains the ISECG report.

China’s space station has a design life of 10 years with the ability to extend service life through maintenance.

After the construction is completed, two or three astronauts will live and work continuously for long durations, with the station supporting a maximum of six people during periods of crew rotation.

The station is equipped with an external robotic arm and other equipment to support station construction, maintenance and operations.

Deployed micro-satellite monitored the combined Tiangong-2/Shenzhou-11 vehicles.
Credit: CCTV


China’s Space Station phase is divided into three sub-phases.

In the key technical verification phase, the test core module is launched and multiple pilot and cargo spacecraft launches test the core module to validate astronaut long-term presence, regenerative life support systems, flexible solar wing and drive mechanism, and overall control of a large flexible structure and space station assembly.

Following this key technical verification phase, the two specialized modules are launched completing the construction phase.

During this period, a number of Shenzhou crewed and cargo spacecraft will be launched to support the completion of construction tasks and carry out scientific and technological experiments simultaneously.

When the Space Station construction tasks are completed, the operations phase begins.

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

Research and exploration activities

The astronaut crew will conduct long-duration missions to conduct scientific and technological research and exploration activities.

On the basis of the existing three-module configuration, an additional docking interface is available with the capability of docking an additional permanent element.

China’s Space Station can accommodate other countries’ spacecraft access that meets the standards of China’s space station and can also be equipped with an external experimental platform and experimental equipment.

As explained in the ISECG report, additional modules may be added to the Chinese Space Station in the future.

International cooperation

The main scientific research and application directions of the Chinese Space Station are:

  • space medicine,
  • space life science and biotechnology,
  • microgravity fluid physics,
  • space material science,
  • microgravity basic physics,
  • space astronomy and astrophysics,
  • space environment and space physics,
  • aerospace components,
  • space geosciences and applications,
  • space-based information technology,
  • new aerospace technologies and applications.

    Credit: CMSE/Wei Yan Juan



International cooperation, the ISECG report explains, can be based on module level cooperation, on other countries’ spacecraft visits, on astronaut joint flights, and on cooperation in space science and space applications research.




To read this China update within the 2018 ISECG  report, go to pg. 13:

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