China Unveils Earth’s Next Orbiting Space Station –“The Heavenly Palace”

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China unveiled on Tuesday a replica of its first permanently crewed “Heavenly Palace” (Tiangong) space station that will be composed of three parts-a core module attached to two space labs-having a combined weight of more than 90 metric tons, the academy said., space station, which would replace the international community’s orbiting laboratory and symbolizes the country’s major ambitions beyond Earth.

The 17-meter (55-foot) core module was a star attraction at the biennial Airshow China in the southern coastal city of Zhuhai, the country’s main aerospace industry exhibition.

The core module, Tianhe, or Harmony of Heavens, will have three parts: the connecting section, life-support and control section, and resources section. The module will be equipped with three docking hatches reserved for visiting manned or cargo spacecraft and two berthing locations used to connect with space laboratories. There will also be a hatch for astronauts’ extravehicular activities.

The core module will be 16.6 meters long with a diameter of 4.2 meters. It will be central to the space station’s operations, as astronauts will live there and control the entire station from inside it. The module will also be capable of hosting scientific experiments.

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China will start putting together its first manned space station around 2020, according to government plans. First, a Long March 5B heavy-lift rocket, which is being developed by Chinese scientists, will put the station’s core module into orbit that year. Next, about four manned spaceflights will be made to send astronauts to assemble the station.

The space station is expected to be fully operational around 2022. It is set to operate for about 15 years, according to the China Academy of Space Technology, developer of the station.

In 2024, it will become the world’s only space station if the United States-led International Space Station is retired that year as planned.

The station will be able to carry more than 10 tons of scientific and experimental equipment. It will have 26 internal payload cabinets, 67 external hatches designed to dock with medium-sized extravehicular apparatuses and four external points for towing large instruments, according to designers.

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Once the International Space Station is retired in 2024, China will be the only country with manned space station
China will then have the only space station in orbit, though it will be much smaller than the ISS which weighs 400 tons and is as large as a football pitch.

The country announced in May that the lab would be open to “all countries” to conduct science experiments. “There is no doubt that China will use its station in a similar way as the ISS partners are using their outpost: research, technology and as a stepping-stone for deep-space exploration,” said Chen Lan, analyst at GoTaikonauts.com, a website specialized in the Chinese space program.

Research institutes, universities, and public and private companies have been invited to propose projects. Some 40 plans from 27 countries and regions have been received, according to state media.

The European Space Agency has sent astronauts to China to receive training in order to be ready to work inside the Chinese space station once it is launched.

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“I’m sure over time China will be successful developing partnerships,” said Bill Ostrove, space analyst with US-based Forecast International consultancy. “Despite a lot of talk of the opposite, the United States remains the most dominant power in space right now,” Ostrove said. “The most likely scenario for the future is that China will emerge as one of the major space powers,” he said.

But Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan and India will continue to play “major roles” in space exploration, while private firms are becoming increasingly important in the sector, Ostrove added.

“The space market is becoming more diverse,” he said, “so it will be difficult for one or two countries or companies to dominate the field in the way the US and Soviet Union did during the Cold War.”

The Daily Galaxy via AFP and China.org 

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