China has begun constructing a new space station. They have started preparing to send their first long March-5B rocket into space. They plan on sending 11 of these rockets to finish building this new space station.

The rockets they plan on sending are meant to launch out a core module, experimental modules, a cargo spacecraft and a crewed spacecraft. This new space station’s intended use is to gather data across a large period of time.

China Begins Constructing a New Space Station

Their new space station referred to as a large modular space station (LMSS), is intended to orbit the Earth at a closer distance than usual, 425km high. 

This spacecraft is not large in size, being only a fifth of the size of the Internation Space Station and approximately the same size as the old Russian space station (Mir), which is no longer in use.

The Russian space station does have some common traits with Chinas new station, as they both operate in lower Earth orbit. Although it was decommissioned in 2001 but did serve 15 years of good use, an excellent life for the vessel considering they planned to have it orbit the Earth for a mere five years.

The Chinese have planned for the space station to have a mass ranging from 80 to 100 tonnes. Operations are to be administered from the Beijing Aerospace Command ad Control Center, obviously located in China, Beijing. 

They have arranged for their LMSS to be launched sometime in 2021, but this is only the launch time for the core module, named Tianhe (meaning “Joining of the Heavens”).

China Begins Constructing a New Space Station
China Begins Constructing a New Space Station

The construction of this space station is the third stage of the Tiangong Program. The Tiangong Program is the space station that China has been planning to build.

The reason why this space station is quite similar to the Russian space station is that it was designed to be a modular space station similar to Mir. 

On the 29th of September 2011, China launched its very first space laboratory, labelled Tiangong-1. On the 15th of September 2016, China sent into space a more advanced space laboratory, the Tiangong-2. 

This project is set to climax with a large space station. This space station is set with a 20-ton core module, 2 smaller research modules and a cargo transport spacecraft. 

This space station was meant to be up and ready for three astronauts to inhabit it by 2020, but due to unforeseen circumstances, it has been pushed back until 2024.

China Begins Constructing a New Space Station
China Begins Constructing a New Space Station

A Brief History

It wasn’t until 1999, this project was given authorization, where two different versions of the space station were studied; a 20 metric ton station and an 8 metric ton laboratory. 

In 2000, Hanover, Germany, they unveiled the model of their space station plan for the first time during the Expo 2000. It was designed to be approximately 20 metres long, weigh around 40 metric tons in total and have the possibility of expanding, through the use of additional modules. 

In 2001, the engineers figured out the steps it would take to create such a station and predicted it would be finished by 2010. 

China had originally planned to dock both Shenzhou 8 and Shenzhou 9 together to create a larger space laboratory, however, they scrapped this plan and instead scheduled to make and launch a much smaller space station instead.

On the 29th of September 2008, the Vice Director for China Crewed Space Engineering Declared that Shenzhou 8, Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10 would dock onto the Tiangong-1, which on the first of October 2008, they the docking of Shenzhou 8 to Tiangong-1 to have been a success.

On the 16th of June 2012, they successfully launched and docked the Shenzhou 9 to the Tiangong-1, the difference between this docking and the first is that this ship contained three crewmembers. 

Finally, on the 11th of June, 2013, they launched the Shengzhou 10, again with a crew of three to be docked with the Tiangong-1.

If you want to learn more about recent Chinese launches click here.

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