China’s space station expected to be completed around 2022.
CMS/Inside Outer Space screengrab


The China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO) said on Monday that a Long March-7 Y3 rocket, slated to loft a supply ship to China’s still-to-be-built space station, has arrived at its launch site in southern China’s Hainan Province.

The rocket, alongside the Tianzhou-2 cargo craft, has been transported to the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site where it will be assembled and tested. CMSEO also said the facilities and equipment at the launch site are in good condition and preparations are being carried out as scheduled.

The uncrewed Tianzhou-2 is one element of a go-getting schedule to construct China’s space station.

Core module of China’s space station.
Credit: CMS/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China’s has completely transferred its human spaceflight agenda to the construction stage of its space station. A number of missions — including launching the core module of the space station, cargo replenishment, and crewed space flights — will be implemented this year.

The space station’s Tianhe core module and its booster, a Long March-5B Y2 are also at the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site. Liftoff of that central element is scheduled to be implemented in the first half of this year.

China’s space station to be operating in the 2020’s. Credit: CCTV

Development strategy

Space program officials in China see building the country’s orbiting outpost as the third step of its “three-step development strategy” for a crewed space program.

In May 2020, the successful launch of a Long March-5B kicked off the “third step” of the development strategy.

As reported by the China Central Television (CCTV) network, the spacefaring country has launched 11 manned spacecraft, one cargo spacecraft, Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2 space labs, sending 11 astronauts into space, completing the first two steps of the three-step manned space program.

Shenzhou-11 crew onboard the Tiangong-2 space lab. Mission lasted 33 days.
Credit: CCTV-Plus

CCTV adds that the space station will be completed around 2022, and a national space laboratory with stable operation in orbit will be built up within that time period.

Working with the United Nations, China has completed selection of a first batch of space science experiments to be implemented onboard the Chinese crewed space station.

Foundational element

The upcoming launch of the Tianhe core module is a foundational element of the Chinese orbiting complex.

“After we launch the core module, we will send a cargo spacecraft to dock with it. And then we will launch the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft,” said Yang Liwei, the country’s first astronaut, in a recent CCTV interview. “That’s why I say it is critical this year, as all the flight missions rely on our core module, and it must succeed. The launch of the core module will be a milestone indeed,” Yang added.

China’s space station agenda also includes lofting an optical module that carries a space telescope, touted as having a better field angle than the NASA Hubble space telescope.
Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

“For Experiment Modules I and II that we will launch next year,” Yang said, “they both need to be docked with the core module, which is of significant and symbolic meaning to the whole space station program of China. Only after we launch the space station to outer space, will we truly enter the phase of verification and building of the space station.”

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Astronauts selected

A total of 12 Chinese astronauts will enter space in 11 missions launched under China’s manned space program over the next two years, said Yang.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

This year and next, while China’s space station is being assembled, Yang said four crewed spaceflight missions will be carried out. “We have chosen the astronauts for the four crews, and are now training them for each of the missions. There will be experienced and new astronauts assigned to each crew, and you will see many familiar faces among them,” he told CCTV.


In total, China’s astronaut corps consists of 34 individuals.

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