Three astronauts In China A new space station you just took the country’s first spacewalk and they’re busy uniting for future crews.
Named after Tiangong (“Heavenly Palace”), the station is the China National Space Agency’s signature project to advance China’s ambitions to have humans in orbit for a long time.
In planning since the late 1990s, Tiangong Station’s base unit, Tianhe (“Heavenly River” and the old Chinese name for the Milky Way), was launched on April 29.
But it is not completed yet. Yang Liwei, chief designer of China’s manned space program الفضاء The astronauts said: “You have many tasks to do after the base unit is inserted. For the screws alone, there are over 1,000 to be removed.”
Very similar to the previous Russian Space Station 1 and the International Space Station, the entire project is too large to be put into orbit in a single launch.
Tianhe, weighing 22.5 tons, was lifted to an orbit 400 km above Earth in a Long March-5B rocket from the Wenchang launch site on Hainan Island, China. For context, the Long March-5B is a heavy-lift rocket with thrust between the SpaceX Valk 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets.
The base unit contains everything needed to keep people alive in space. This includes:
- life support systems
- a kitchen
- Sleeping and sanitary areas
- Electric Power Management
- fire fighting equipment
To assist the three astronauts during their six-day work week, the kitchen is currently well stocked with more than 120 different foods.
The base unit is also equipped with docking ports. These futuristic modules, astronaut flights and robotic cargo-supply capsules will allow for docking.
In preparation for Tiangong, China has launched two experimental space stations: Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2
The first, launched in 2011, was visited several times by Chinese astronauts, who tested the cargo ships’ docking procedures. But after the station closed in 2016, CNSA lost contact with it. He could not control the point of impact of the station’s return – culminating in a return fire that angered critics in the United States.
Launched in 2016, Tiangong-2 was a short-lived test station designed to assess living conditions in orbit, including: growing food and measuring radiation levels. This station had a controlled slope, and it burned over the Pacific Ocean in 2019.
In addition to the basic unit, the combined units of the current Tiangong Space Station will consist of two laboratories, Mingtian (“Heavenly Dreams”) and Wentian (“Heavenly Mission”), which will be launched in the coming years. The design of each of these laboratory units will be based on Tiangong-2 facilities.
Unlike the International Space Station, where most of the electrical power for all units is supplied by large solar panels on purpose-built bridges, each unit launched at Tiangong has its own solar panel.
Once completed, Tiangong will weigh more than 60 tons, hold three astronauts in space for extended periods of time, and have the potential to support future spacewalks and science experiments. Can be installed in built-in units or on shelves that can be spread out outside the room.
What’s next for Tiangong?
International cooperation is an important part of the project.
For example, astronauts from the European Space Agency are training with Chinese astronauts for ocean survival. If the astronauts had to leave a space station in orbit and return to Earth quickly, they would likely land in the water and survive until they were rescued.
The European Space Agency’s long-term goal with this training is to one day enable astronauts to fly on Chinese space missions.
Recently, nine international scientific experiments identified by CNSA have been installed aboard the Tiangong in the coming years. The agency received 42 applications from many different countries.
Among those selected, experiments include: Polar 2, a sensor designed to study light from gamma-ray bursts, which are among the most powerful in the universe.
The other project is Tumors in Space, a project led by researchers in Norway that will investigate how microgravity and the radioactive environment in space affect tumor growth.
With yet another platform for people for long-term life in orbit, we hope the incredible success of the International Space Station will be repeated at Tiangong Station. There is no doubt that the experience gained by the astronauts will be invaluable for planning future exploration efforts on the Moon and Mars.
Russia and China recently unveiled a roadmap for the International Lunar Research Station. This project will include several robotic orbiters and landers, and will culminate in a human-manned research facility, either in lunar orbit or on the surface.
If this project succeeds, it could see Chinese and Russian astronauts rely on the Moon from the 1930s onwards.
Tiangong is one of the notable successes of the Chinese space program in recent years. These include the first mission back to the Moon since the 1970s, and the State mission, the first robotic lander on Mars, complete with the rover, which landed in May this year.
In the new space race, China is clearly a real competitor.
This article was posted in Conversation by Gareth Dorian at the University of Birmingham and Ian Whitaker At Nottingham Trent University. Read the her original articlee.