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Copyright Mark Wade
Authorization to proceed with the 921-2 space station came in February 1999, with the first design review in May. A vacuum chamber with a diameter of 7 meters and a height of 12 meters had already been built to test the station. First launch may be expected no earlier than 2002, with a slow rate of assembly of the space station thereafter. Image copyright Mark Wade.
Russia Hopes China Will Seek Help In Building Its Own Space Station
by Wei Long
Beijing - March 22, 2000 - Russia is wooing China for further space cooperation, particularly in supporting Mir operation, according to a report published last week in New York.

The China Press, a Chinese language newspaper published in New York, said last Thursday (16th) that as a result of the recent visit of Vice-premier Ilya Klebanov in Beijing, Russia offered to assist China in developing its own space station, while also welcoming Chinese financing to support Mir operation.

China Press quoted a report from the Russian newspaper Izvestia that Klebanov had suggested to China to "jointly utilize" Mir. The suggestion is aimed at attracting a Chinese investment of up to $500 million that will also the operational life of Mir to be extended by three to four years.

Klebanov said that China requested Russia to help design and build a space station. He told Russian media that China and Russia would sign an agreement to jointly design the Chinese space station in the near future.

Both sides had reached a preliminary agreement to manufacture some space station components, and in training Yuhangyuan, (Chinese astronauts), and ground controllers.

At the current stage of dialogue, the two sides are preparing thirty-six agreements on space station technology transfer; eleven of which are ready to be signed as commercial contracts.

Russian experts point out that in order for China to have its own space station, it would need to invest upwards of $1 billion, leading Russia to offer selling China a package of Mir space station technology. These experts said that China may launch its own orbital outpost in a decade.

Earlier ITAR-TASS reported that China had considered purchasing Mir. Chinese experts thought by repairing some of Mir's components and upgrading the computer system, the space station would have another 15 years of orbital life. But the Russian Space Agency denied the report, and claimed that Mir was a "national treasure" and it would not be sold to any country.

China and Russia have made progress in space cooperation in recent years. Izvestia disclosed that according to the secret agreement the two countries signed on April 25, 1996, Russia offered space technology consultation to China, and the space research units in both countries had began cooperation. China had since purchased from the Russian space vehicle manufacturer Energia a mockup of a Soyuz-TM spacecraft and an automatic rendezvous and docking system.

The purchase of a Soyuz mockup confirms the observation of a Russian cosmonaut who points out that the Shenzhou spacecraft, China's manned flight capsule, is modelled after the Russian vehicle.

Shenzhou Was De-rated 'The Right Stuff'
Hong Kong - March 13, 2000 -  The maiden flight of Shenzhou was originally planned to be a manned mission, according to a report distributed here March 11. An official knowledgeable to Shenzhou's planning said the Party Leadership had ordered the change.

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