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China Exclusive: China to begin building space station in 2017
by Staff Writers
Jiuquan (XNA) Sep 19, 2016

File image.

China will begin building a space station that is more economically efficient and uses more data than the current International Space Station (ISS), starting as early as 2017, chief engineer of China's manned space program Zhou Jianping told Xinhua Thursday.

"Once the space lab mission comes to an end, China will start building our own space station," he said, adding that China will launch a core module of the space station around 2018.

Zhou made the remarks as China's space lab Tiangong-2 blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gobi desert late Thursday.

China's space station will consist of three parts, weighing over 60 tonnes, said Zhou, adding that it will be smaller than the ISS and be able to dock with two manned spacecraft and one cargo spacecraft at most.

Zhou said the station is designed to house a maximum of six astronauts.

"After the building of the space station, manned space flight will become normal, which means China will send at least six astronauts in two groups to space each year," he added.

Zhu Zongpeng, chief designer of China's space lab system, said construction of the space station will be completed by around 2020 and it will enter into service around 2022, with an initial designed life of at least 10 years.

Astronauts could soon be stationed in orbit for missions that last more than one year, Zhu said.

China has been actively developing a three-step manned space program.

The first step, to send an astronaut into space and return safely, was fulfilled by Yang Liwei in the Shenzhou-5 mission in 2003.

The second step was developing advanced space flight techniques and technologies including extra-vehicular activity and orbital docking. This phase also includes the launch of two space laboratories - effectively mini space-stations that can be manned on a temporary basis.

The next step will be to assemble and operate a permanent manned space station.

With the ISS set to retire in 2024, the Chinese space station will offer a promising alternative, and it will make China the only country to have a permanent space station after the ISS.

Backgrounder: China's voyage to space BEIJING, Sept. 15 (Xinhua) - China's second space lab Tiangong-2 is scheduled to launch into space between September 15 and 20, according to the office of China's manned space program.

The space lab was transferred with its carrier rocket to the launch pad at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on September 9.

Tiangong-2, which can enable two astronauts to live in space for 30 days, is capable of receiving manned and cargo spaceships and will be used for testing systems and processes for mid-term space stays and refueling.

It will also be involved with experiments on aerospace medicine, space sciences, on-orbit maintenance and space station technologies.

It has been 17 years since the program's first mission took place in 1999 with the launch of the Shenzhou-1.

China's manned space program facts:

Launched: 6:30 a.m., Nov. 20, 1999

Landed: 3:41 a.m., Nov. 21, 1999

The main task was to examine the performance and reliability of the launcher and verify key technologies relating to capsule connection and separation, heat prevention, control and landing.

Launched: 1:00:03 a.m., Jan. 10, 2001

Landed: 7:22 p.m., Jan. 16, 2001

Shenzhou-2 was the first formal unmanned spacecraft. The launch was conducted in conditions usually required for a manned spacecraft. It carried out several experiments in various fields of space, including life science, materials, astronomy and physics under conditions of microgravity.

Launched: 10:15 p.m., March 25, 2002

Landed: 4:51 a.m., April 1, 2002

The module carried human physical monitoring sensors and "dummy astronauts." It was also equipped with escape and emergency rescue functions.

Launched: 12:40 a.m., Dec. 30, 2002

Landed: 7:16 p.m., Jan. 5, 2003

The module was launched at a temperature of minus 29 degrees Celsius. Excessive harmful gas, found in the previous three crafts, was reduced to a safe level in the fourth module. Radiation-proof facilities and automatic and manual emergency rescue systems were installed on the spacecraft.

Launched: 9 a.m., Oct. 15, 2003

Landed: 6:23 a.m., Oct. 16, 2003

The launch of the spacecraft was the first manned mission, which realized the nation's thousand-year dream of manned space flight and was a new milestone in China's space program.

The craft carried astronaut Yang Liwei.

Launched: 9:00 a.m., Oct. 12, 2005

Landed: 4:33 a.m., Oct. 17, 2005

China's second manned spaceflight carried astronauts Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng.

The mission aimed to master technology relating to a "multi-person and multi-day" orbital flight, as well as to carry out manned space-related scientific experiments and medical experiments.

Launched: 9:10 p.m., Sept. 25, 2008

Landed: 5:37 p.m., Sept. 28, 2008

China carried out a historic first spacewalk by a Chinese astronaut. Zhai Zhigang, Liu Boming and Jing Haipeng were onboard.

Zhai left the cabin at 4:34 p.m. September 27, 43 hours after the craft launched, remaining outside the craft for 19 minutes and 35 seconds. China became the third country in the world to conduct extravehicular activity in space, following the Soviet Union and the United States.

Launched: 5:58 a.m, Nov. 1, 2011

Docked with Tiangong-1 space module: 1:36 a.m., Nov. 3, 2011

Landed: 7:30 p.m., Nov. 17, 2011.

The return of the unmanned spacecraft Shenzhou-8 marked the end of the 49-day space docking mission, and it was hoped that it would pave the way for the establishing of China's own space station.

China not only made a breakthrough in space docking technology, but also validated the capability of its rocket, spacecraft and entire system, laying solid foundations for the building of a space station.

Launched: 6:37 p.m, June 16, 2012

Docked with Tiangong-1 space module: around 2 p.m., June 18, 2012

Landed: 10:03 a.m., June 29, 2012

The return of the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft to Earth marked the end of a 13-day journey through space for three Chinese astronauts who completed China's first manned space docking.

The craft carried the first Chinese female astronaut Liu Yang.

It also marked the beginning of a new journey for China as it inched closer to its goal of building a space station.

Launched: 5:38 p.m., June 11, 2013

Docked with Tiangong-1 space module: 1:18 p.m., June 13, 2013

Landed: 8:07 a.m., June 26, 2013

Shenzhou-10 was China's first application-oriented space flight. In its 15-day journey in space, Shenzhou-10 docked with the orbiting space lab Tiangong-1 twice, once through automatic operation and once manually.

The astronauts spent 12 days in Tiangong-1, where they conducted medical experiments, technical tests and delivered a lecture to students on Earth about basic physics principles.

Compared with the previous mission Shenzhou-9, Shenzhou-10 was not experimental but considered an applicable shuttle system for transporting astronauts and supplies to orbiting modules.

Launched: 9:16 p.m., Sept. 29, 2011

Service end: earlier this year

The orbiting Tiangong-1 space module docked with Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spacecraft and undertook a series of experiments.

Source: Xinhua News Agency

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