China has revealed the first plans for its new international space station. Having adopted the name ‘Tiangong’ from the country’s prototypes before it, which literally means ‘Heavenly Palace’, this construction should be completed by 2022. It could also take over from NASA’s International Space Station (ISS), whose mission is due to end in 2024.
This is an important step forward for the Chinese Space Agency. China first presented their replica of the future space station during the country’s major aerospace industry exhibition in Zhuhai in the South of the country.
Known as ‘Tiangong’, which literally means ‘Heavenly Palace’, this station follows on from two prototypes that were launched in recent years and briefly occupied by astronauts. But this new station will largely surpass its predecessors in terms of size. Judging from the prototype in Zhuhai, it will measure 17 meters in length and weigh 66 tonnes.
Although clearly a lot smaller than the International Space Station (ISS), which weighs 400 meters, Tiangong-3 will nevertheless be able to accommodate three astronauts on board, which isn’t a lot to start off with. However, although the station will technically belong to China, it will open its doors to all countries who are members of the United Nations. The aim is to ensure a smooth transition for the ISS, which will be retiring in 2024.
NASA has actually already announced the end of the Space Station’s mission, after 26 years of good and loyal service. According to Chinese authorities, ‘Tiangong’ should be finished being built in 2022.
Further research and technology development
The satellite will comprise of three parts. The first acting as living and work quarters, and two annexes where scientific research will be conducted.
‘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,’ explained Chen Lan, analyst at GoTaikonauts.com, a website specialized in the Chinese space program.
Releasing this space station also shows China’s desire to developing its space program, which the government has released significant funding for. This is also proof that the Chinese government isn’t a superstitious one, since the future space station will bear the same name as ‘Tiangong-1’, a space laboratory prototype that was launched by China in 2011, but which crashed into Earth this year, after having lost control in orbit two years ago.