China Eyes Next Generation Crew Vehicle for Deep Space Missions

china_flagChina is eyeing a next-generation human space transportation system to carry taikonauts to future space stations and to conduct missions to the moon, Mars and asteroids, according to a report on a Chinese space blog.

A feasibility study proposes a conical spacecraft similar to the American Orion and Apollo capsules capable of carrying between two and six crew members. The capsule would be attached to service modules of different sizes similar to the ones used for Apollo missions.

The baseline spacecraft would weigh 14 tons, with a 20 metric ton version featuring a longer service module. The vehicles would be used to support near-Earth, asteroid, lunar and Mars missions. The study eyes reusing the return capsules.

The new spacecraft would be launched aboard Long March 5 and Long March 7 rockets due to their increased weights.

China is currently flying Shenzhou spacecraft that are similar in appearance and size to the Russian Soyuz transport. The Shenzhou is capable of carrying three crew members.

The report indicates that a feasibility study has been conducted. However, it does not appear as if a program has been approved and funded.