Credit: China Central Television (CCTV)/China National Space Administration (CNSA)/United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA)/China Manned Space Agency (CMSA)/Inside Outer Space screengrab


China is slated to launch at the end of 2023 a space-based optical observatory flagship telescope.

The telescope, during its normal observations, will fly independently in the same orbit as China’s space station but will maintain a large distance apart, according to China’s Xinhua news agency.

However, the telescope can dock with China’s space station for refueling and servicing as scheduled or as needed.

Bus-sized facility

Known as the Chinese Survey Space Telescope, it is also called the Chinese Space Station Telescope (CSST) and Xuntian Space Telescope.

A bus-sized facility with a length equal to that of a three-story building, the space telescope has an aperture of two meters, a bit smaller than the Hubble Space Telescope, but its field of view is 350 times larger than Hubble in area, said Liu Jifeng, deputy director of National Astronomical Observatories Of China (NAOC), in an exclusive interview with Xinhua.

Credit: NAOC

The CSST will be outfitted with five instruments including a Survey Camera.

CSST is likely to be the largest space telescope for astronomy in the near-ultraviolet and visible in the decade before 2035, said Zhan Hu, project scientist of the CSST Optical Facility.

The CSST is expected to start scientific operations in 2024 and has a nominal mission lifetime of 10 years, which could be extended in principle.

Credit: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Media Group(CMG)/China Central Television (CCTV)/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Station construction steps

China intends to have their space station construction complete by the end of this year.

The China National Space Administration plans to complete the construction of the station by adding the Wentian Experiment Capsule-1 and the Mengtian Experiment Capsule-2 to the now orbiting Tianhe Core Module.

Two Tianzhou cargo spacecraft will provide supplies for the astronauts of the Shenzhou-14 and Shenzhou-15 crewed spacecraft.

The Wentian lab module will be launched in July and Mengtian in October, Hao Chun, director of the China Manned Space Agency, said recently at the press conference.

The Shenzhou-14 crew will witness the arrival of two lab modules during their stay in orbit.

The Shenzhou-15 crew will fly to the space station before the end of this year and join the Shenzhou-14 crew in space. At that time, the space station will consist of three modules, two manned spacecraft and one cargo spacecraft, with a total mass of nearly 100 tons.

Credit: China National Space Administration (CNSA)/China Media Group(CMG)/China Central Television (CCTV)/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Training and preparation

The two crews of the Shenzhou-14 and Shenzhou-15 have been selected and they are actively carrying out relevant training and preparation.

“The two crews of the Shenzhou-14 and Shenzhou-15 will stay in orbit for six months respectively, and they will carry out in-orbit rotation for the first time. The six astronauts will stay together in orbit for 5 to 10 days,” said Huang Weifen, chief designer of the astronaut system under China’s manned space program.

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