China to double space station, replaces NASA-led ISS

FILE PHOTO: A woman takes a picture on a screen showing Chinese astronauts Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu from the Chinese space station during the Lunar New Year dinner service at the Shangri-La Shogang Park Hotel in Beijing, China. , January 21, 2023. REUTERS/Florence Lo/File Photo Get license rights

BEIJING, Oct 5 (Reuters) – China plans to expand its space station by six modules in the coming years as the NASA-led International Space Station (ISS) approaches, providing an alternative platform for astronauts from other countries to travel close to Earth. End of its lifespan.

The operational life of the Chinese space station will be more than 15 years, China’s main space contracting agency China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) said on Wednesday at the 74th International Space Conference in Baku, Azerbaijan.

This will be more than the previously reported 10 years.

China’s self-built space station, known as Tiangong, or Sky Palace in Chinese, has been fully operational since late 2022, carrying a maximum of three astronauts at orbital altitudes of up to 450 km (280 miles).

At 180 metric tons, after expanding into six modules, Tiangong is still just 40% of the mass of the ISS, which can hold a crew of seven astronauts. But the ISS, which has been in orbit for more than two decades, is expected to be decommissioned after 2030, while China hopes to become “a major space power”.

Chinese state media said China would not be “agile” toward retiring the ISS after Tiangong became fully operational last year, adding that “many countries” had asked to send their astronauts to the Chinese station.

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But in a blow to China’s ambitions for space diplomacy, the European Space Agency (ESA) said it did not have the budget or “political” green light to participate in Tiangong this year, putting on hold a multi-year plan for the arrival of European astronauts. .

“It’s clear that humans are abandoning cooperation with China in space Short sightedIt reveals that the US-led camp conflict has led to a new space race,” the Global Times, a nationalist Chinese newspaper, wrote at the time.

Tiangong has become a symbol of China’s growing influence and confidence in its space efforts, and is challenging the US in the domain after being isolated from the ISS. It is prohibited by US law from any direct or indirect cooperation with NASA.

Russia, a participant in the ISS, has similar space diplomacy plans that suggest Moscow’s allies in the BRICS group — Brazil, India, China and South Africa — could build a module for its space station.

Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, said last year that it planned to build a six-module space station that could accommodate four astronauts.

Reporting by Ryan Wu. Editing by Gerry Doyle

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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