What China’s space station is likely to look like when it’s finished. Manned Space Technology Office in China
The International Space Station (ISS) is no longer the only habitable satellite orbiting the earth after China successfully launched its own station on Wednesday April 28th.
A Long March 5B rocket with the new station’s main Tianhe module, which was launched shortly after 11:20 p.m. (CET) from the Wenchang spacecraft launch site in Hainan Province.
State television broadcast live footage of the launch and deployment, as well as the cheering scenes that broke out at Mission Control in Beijing as the module went into orbit. You can see the coverage below.
With a weight of 22 tons and a size of about five floors, the station offers space for up to six astronauts. The first three residents could arrive as early as June this year before a separate freight mission leaves for the station in May.
When China finishes building its space station sometime next year, it is expected to be about a quarter the size of the International Space Station. Like the ISS, the new surrounding outpost is used, among other things, for scientific research under zero gravity conditions. China’s station will orbit approximately 230 miles above the earth, with the ISS positioned 20 miles higher.
China, which has no connections with the ISS, plans to share its space station facilities with other countries. The new plant is expected to remain in operation for at least 10 years. This means that the 20-year-old ISS, which can be decommissioned in 2028 or shortly thereafter, can be outlived.
This is not the first time China has launched a habitable satellite into space. Two prototypes have been sent in the past decade, Tiangong 1 and Tiangong 2. The stations have been visited by Chinese astronauts, although both satellites have since ceased operations and burned in the earth’s atmosphere in 2018 and 2019, respectively.
In a message to the nation on its recent space mission, President Xi Jinping said, “The successful launch of the Tianhe core module shows that the construction of our country’s space station has entered the phase of full implementation and has laid a solid foundation for subsequent missions. ”
China’s growing interest in space missions is part of the country’s growing efforts to stand out on the world stage and, among other things, to further cement its reputation as a serious competitor to the United States.
The Chinese space agency launched a mission to Mars last year that reached the red planet in February 2021 and completed a mission to the moon that successfully returned lunar rocks to Earth.