China, on April 29, 2021, launched the Tianhe space station core module of its Space Station.
It is the latest in Beijing’s increasingly ambitious space programme.
- The module that was launched is called Tianhe.
- The Space Station China is building is called Tiangong.
- China kick started the series of key launch missions that aim to complete the construction of the station by the end of next year.
- The Long March-5B Y2 rocket, carrying the Tianhe module, blasted off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on the coast of the southern island province of Hainan.
- The launch begins the first of 11 missions necessary to construct and provision the station and send up a three-person crew by the end of next year.
- The astronauts will live on the station for six months at a time.
- Tianhe has a total length of 16.6 meters, a maximum diameter of 4.2 meters and a take-off mass of 22.5 tonnes, and is the largest spacecraft developed by China.
- The Tianhe module will act as the management and control hub of the space station Tiangong
- Tiangong means “Heavenly Space”.
- It is to begin its operations in 2022.
- Still 11 more modules are to be launched and assembled to complete the space station.
- According to the Chinese Government, the completed Space Station will look like the “Mir Station”. Mir was a Russian Space Station that orbited between 1980s and 2001.
- The Chinese Space Station, Tiangong will orbit the earth in the low earth orbit at a height of 400 to 450 kilometres.
- The lifespan of the space station is 15 years.
- It weighs more than 90 tonnes.
- The size of Tiangong Space Station will be a quarter the size of the International Space Station.
- The station is also expected to contribute to the peaceful development and utilisation of space resources through international cooperation, as well as to enrich technologies and experience for China’s future explorations into deeper space.
- The Chinese space station was expected to be a competitor to the aging International Space Station (ISS) which is a modular space station in low Earth orbit.
- After International Space Station retires, Tiangong will be the only space station orbiting the earth.
International Space Station (ISS):
- The International Space Station (ISS) is a multinational collaborative project involving five participating space agencies which included NASA, (US), Roscomos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada).
- It is due to be retired after 2024, although NASA has said it could potentially remain functional beyond 2028.
Note: Russia has planned to launch its own space station in 2025.
Previous Chinese Mission
- In 2011, Chinese launched the Tiangong – 1. It was the first prototype module that laid groundwork for the permanently crewed station.
- In 2016, the second lab Tiangong – 2 was launched.
China’s Lunar Missions
- The Chinese are also planning to build a separate lunar space station with Russia. This space station might either be placed in the orbit of the moon or on its surface.
- China’s space programme has also recently brought back the first new lunar samples in more than 40 years and expects to land a probe and rover on the surface of Mars later next month.