Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China’s space station plans are pressing ahead.

The recent selection of a new group of 18 reserve astronauts — including one female –were chosen from 2,500 candidates.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

This new cadre consists of seven spacecraft pilots, seven space flight engineers and four payload experts.

According to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), the flight engineers and payload experts have been selected for the first time as reserve astronauts to meet China’s space station construction needs.

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 service reports that the astronauts will shoulder multiple responsibilities in the construction of the space station. They will conduct complex extravehicular tasks, and work with mechanical arms to complete the installation, testing, adjustment and upgrading of payloads in orbit.

One astronaut can operate the mechanical arm inside the capsule while another works outside. The space station will have two kinds of mechanical arms, and the coordination between astronauts and mechanical arms will enable the construction and maintenance of the station.

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

10-year-plus lifetime

Hao Chun, director general of the CMSA, at a space forum in Wuhan, central China’s Hubei Province, said last week that China will pay attention to material supply, application payloads, micro-satellites release, in-orbit maintenance, space tourism, and gradually establish proper models for other parties to participate.

Hao Chun, director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office.
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China’s space station is expected to be completed around 2022.

Operating in low-Earth orbit at an altitude from 211 miles (340 kilometers) to 280 miles (450 kilometers) for more than 10 years, according to China space officials, the facility is intended to support large-scale scientific, technological and application experiments.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Key elements

Upcoming is launch of the station core module and two lab capsules. Four piloted mission and four cargo craft will also be launched, according to the CMSA.

The core module of the station, named Tianhe, is currently the largest spacecraft developed by China. The first lab capsule, named Wentian, will be mainly used for scientific and technological experiments, as well as working and living space and shelter in an emergency.

The second lab capsule, named Mengtian, offers similar functions.

An optical telescope with a diameter of 6.5 feet (2-meter) will fly in the same orbit as the space station. The telescope capsule, named Xuntian (“Heavenly Cruiser”), is expected to provide observation data for astronomical and physical studies. It can dock with China’s space station for maintenance and refueling. In telescopic terms, NASA’s Hubble space telescope features a 2.4-meter (7.9 ft) mirror.

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