China plans new space station
China is planning to make a new space station. The programme would be launched in April.
A Long March 5B rocket will carry a “trial version” of China’s new spaceship, which is designed to carry crews of up to six people. Previous Chinese spaceships carried up to three taikonauts, the term used to describe Chinese astronauts.
While the April mission will carry neither people nor pieces of the future space station, it is expected to prepare Chinese officials for space station construction.
The Long March 5B is a modified version of China’s heavy-lift Long March 5 rocket, which began flying in 2016. The China Manned Space Agency designed the 5B for the space station and large crewed spacecraft.
China plans to finish the space station by 2022, after more than 10 missions for construction and in-orbit assembly. The station will be shaped like a T, with a core module, called Tianhe, at the center and one lab capsule on either side of that.
Unlike previous Chinese space stations, which required water launched from Earth, water on the new space station will be recovered from water vapor the astronauts exhale and from urine that is recycled and purified. This space station will also carry machinery that can produce supplemental oxygen.
Tiangong-1 — literally means ‘Heavenly Palace’ — in Chinese was the first habitable space station to serve as a manned laboratory launched by China. Three Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft visited Tiangong-1 while it was in orbit. The Tiangong-1 re-entered the Earth’s atmosphere and burnt up over the Pacific Ocean on April 2nd 2018.