China will launch the Tianhe core module of its first permanent space station aboard a Long March-5B Y2 rocket from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site during the first half of 2021, according to the chief designer of China’s human spaceflight program. Xinhuareports:
“Subsequent space missions include the launches of Tianzhou-2 cargo craft and Shenzhou-12 manned craft after the core module is sent into orbit,” Zhou [Jianping] said.
China is scheduled to complete the construction of the space station around 2022.
Two experiment modules named Wentian and Mengtian will be attached to the core. Launches of the new modules are scheduled for 2021 and 2022.
The space station will be similar in size to the Mir space station built by the Soviet Union during the 1980’s. It will have a mass about one-quarter that of the International Space Station.
Chinese astronauts will travel to the space station using three-seat Shenzhou spacecraft. Later flights will be aboard the nation’s next-generation crewed spacecraft, which will be capable of carrying six or seven astronauts. The next-generation vehicle is being designed for trips to the moon.
Robotic Tianzhou-2 spacecraft capable of carrying around 6,000 kg of cargo will resupply the station.
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The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (PolyU) is working closely with the well-established Russian Space Agency in designing a state-of-the-art space tool which will be carried onboard a Russian spacecraft for the Red Planet in the 2009 Sino-Russian Space Mission â€“ the first strategic interplanetary collaboration between China and Russia.
“It makes sense politically and programmatically to cooperate with China, in all areas. Space would be a good place to symbolically signal such a shift in policy. The United States did this with Russia in the early 1990â€™s. At the time, as a skeptic, I didnâ€™t see the point of cooperating with our former enemy and I objected to using our nationâ€™s space program as a foreign policy tool. I thought that the Russians were technically backward. Having grown up during the Cold War, I â€œknewâ€ these things to be true. It was not until I started training for Expedition 10, that I came to respect the Russians, their technology and their culture. I began to understand the benefits of using U.S. assets and programs to further political friendship through cooperation.
The emerging Chinese space program has been busy, releasing its first full map of the lunar surface based on data returned Chang’e-1 orbiter. Chinese scientists called it the most complete map of the moon ever produced.
Buoyed by the success of the year-old mission, Chinese officials have approved the second and third missions in the series. Chang’e-2 – set for launch in 2011 – will “conduct experiments involving five core technologies such as orbital adjustments and soft landings,” the Xinhua news agency reports. Chang’e-3 will land on the moon with a rover the following year.