The Chinese government is inviting scientists to help build a giant 1-kilometer space probe that it plans to build in orbit. The wild concept is to build a giant spaceship the size of 10 city blocks from components that are shot up bit by bit by rockets.
The concept is outlined in a project document from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (in the appendix entitled “Guide to Major Projects by the Department of Mathematical Sciences”), which describes how the organization is looking for proposals to build an “ultra-large spacecraft with a size of one kilometer “, this objective being” an important strategic aerospace equipment for the future exploitation of space resources, the exploration of the secrets of the universe and the long term life in orbit “.
The Long March 2F rocket, which will bring three Chinese astronauts to a new space station on the country’s first manned launch in five years. STR / Getty Images
The size and mass of such a spacecraft would obviously be enormous, which would make it impossible to build and launch in one piece. Instead, modules should be designed and built, each of which could be launched individually and then assembled in orbit. The project is therefore looking for two key factors: On the one hand, a lightweight construction to keep the number of starts required as low as possible, and on the other hand, a smart design that can be easily assembled in space.
This will be a five-year project to develop the concept, according to the South China Morning Post, and five projects will be selected for development at 15 million yuan ($ 2.3 million) each. Presumably, this level of funding is only the first step in researching the concept, as it is nowhere near enough to actually build and launch a spacecraft – even a tiny one. Whether such a concept can be implemented at all should only serve as a preliminary investigation.
China has taken a giant leap into space exploration in recent years. In addition to its Tianwen 1 mission to Mars, which includes a rover that successfully landed China on Mars for the first time and whose mission was recently extended, there is also its Chang’e 4 mission to the other side of the Mondes took a sample of lunar rocks at home for the first time in over 40 years. And perhaps most significant is China’s new space station, the first module of which was launched earlier this year and which has already seen its first cargo mission and two spacewalks.