China’s space station is projected to be completed in late 2022.
Credit: CAST

China’s in-progress space station has performed preventive collision avoidance control to avoid being struck by SpaceX Starlink satellites. China has informed the United Nations Secretary-General of the issue.

In a document posted by the UN Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space dated December 6, 2021, there is notification by China under Article V of the Outer Space Treaty concerning preventive collision avoidance between the China Space Station (international designation 2021-035A) and United States’ Starlink-1095 (international designation 2020-001BK) and Starlink-2305 (international designation 2021-024N) satellites.

Starlink satellites.
Credit: SpaceX

Dangers to astronauts

“The China Manned Space Program completed five launch missions in 2021, with the successful launching into orbit of the Tianhe core module of the China Space Station, the Tianzhou-II and Tianzhou-III cargo spacecraft and the Shenzhou-XII and Shenzhou-XIII crewed spacecraft. The China Space Station has travelled stably in a near-circular orbit at an altitude of around 390 km on an orbital inclination of about 41.5 degrees,” the document points out.

“During this period, Starlink satellites launched by Space Exploration Technologies Corporation (SpaceX) of the United States of America have had two close encounters with the China Space Station. For safety reasons, the China Space Station implemented preventive collision avoidance control on 1 July and 21 October 2021, respectively.”

“China hereby informs the Secretary-General of the following phenomena which constituted dangers to the life or health of astronauts aboard the China Space Station,” the document states.

The incident was first flagged by the U.K.’s Express as well as Reuters news agency.

The UN document can be read at:

https://www.unoosa.org/res/oosadoc/data/documents/2021/aac_105/aac_1051262_0_html/AAC105_1262E.pdf

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

 

New EVAs

Meanwhile, China astronauts have just wrapped up about six hours of EVAs.

China’s taikonauts, Zhai Zhigang and Ye Guangfu, safely returned to the Tianhe space station core module. Female astronaut Wang Yaping stayed inside the module, supporting the spacewalking duo, including operation of the station’s robotic arm.

This was the fourth time for Chinese astronauts to conduct EVAs during the construction of the country’s space station and the second by the Shenzhou-13 crew.

Zhai and Ye completed such tasks as adjusting a panoramic camera, tested goods transport, installed hardware for future use and evaluated the EVA spacesuits.

Credit: CNSA/CMG/CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Accumulated experience

Yang Yanbo, deputy commander of space mission team, Beijing Aerospace Control Center told China Central Television (CCTV):

“We have made proper arrangements for the extravehicular activities such as readjusting settings of mechanical arm’s movement and the platform, which allowed astronauts to operate equipment and mechanical arm simultaneously, thus improving the efficiency of extravehicular activities.”

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Zhu Guangchen, deputy chief designer of the space station system at the China Academy of Space Technology under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation said:

“The extravehicular activities have further tested designs of the core module airlock module, the mechanical arm and the extravehicular suit, and assessed the coordination between space and Earth, which will accumulate experience for the future assembly and construction tasks.”

Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China’s manned space program, told CCTV:

“All the tasks have been performed smoothly so far, with key construction technologies tested. All indicators show that the functions and performance of our space station meet the requirements, and some of them are even far better than what we had expected, this laying a solid foundation for the future space station construction and operation.”

Step-by-step

China’s space program has successfully completed five launches, five rendezvous and docking missions, and four EVAs since the Tianhe space station core module was sent into Earth orbit on April 29, 2021.

The China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) noted that extravehicular operations are becoming the normal work of the space station flight missions. Chinese astronauts will carry out more and complicated EVAs to provide support for the completion of the construction and the stable operation of the space station.

The orbiting outpost is to be completed by the end of 2022.

Courtesy of Seger Yu/Twitter

Six-month mission

China launched the trio of Shenzhou-13 taikonauts on October 16. The crew is on a six-month mission to construct China’s space station.  

The Shenzhou-13 crew will continue their in-orbit work to greet the coming new year. This is also the first time that Chinese astronauts to greet a new year in space, the CMSA added.

The CMSA noted that extravehicular operations are becoming the normal work of the space station flight missions. Chinese astronauts will carry out more and complicated EVAs to provide strong support for the successful completion of the construction and the stable operation of the space station.

The Tianhe core module is the first and main component of the in-construction China space station, informally known as Tiangong (Heavenly Palace).

Next year, China is to loft new segments of the station.

To view newly-issued videos regarding the completed 2nd EVAs go to:

https://youtu.be/lEdHmpuOmN8

https://youtu.be/qvRa7LYGBQc

https://youtu.be/8Vj0i-J_gUA

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