China wants a larger space station that is open to everyone – Futura

Russia, which remains a major space power despite the loss of many international partnerships, is expected to be overtaken by China by the end of the decade. In this changing geopolitical context, China’s Tiangong space station could become an important low-orbit location for many countries. That’s why China wants to expand its space station and make its use available to as many people as possible.

This will also interest you

[EN VIDÉO] Chinese space station: First successful spacewalk Two of the three inhabitants of the new Chinese space station have successfully completed their first operation…

China, aiming to adapt its space programs to the new geostrategic environment and become the world’s second largest space power, announced its future plans for its Tiangong space station at the 74th International Astronautical Congress in Baku.

At the congress, Zhāng Qiáon, an official from the Chinese Academy of Space Technology (CAST), expressed the desire to expand the size and habitable volume of China’s space station in the coming years. The goal is to go from three to six modules and increase the service life from 10 to 15 years.

A hub with six docking ports

Specifically, the aim is to install a node similar to the Unity, Harmony and Tranquility modules of the International Space Station (ISS). This hub, installed on the Tianhe module, will include six docking ports where two new habitable modules will be positioned.

Zhāng Qiáon also clarified that the Tianhe and Wentian modules will be arranged to support external payloads and that inflatable modules will be used to serve as potential habitats and technology demonstrators for China’s manned lunar program. Improvements planned for Tiangong include installing 3D printers, commissioning intelligent robots and strengthening the capabilities of the robotic arm in use today. Also announced are an Earth observation system and a space debris detection and warning system, as well as a digital twin of the station.

A Chinese Hubble in 2024

He also confirmed that the Xuntian Space Telescope will be launched in 2024. This telescope has the peculiarity that it will fly a short distance from the station in the same orbit to facilitate maintenance operations (maintenance, refueling, replacement of instruments… payload). . Its two-meter-diameter mirror will be slightly smaller than that of the Hubble Space Telescope (2.4 meters), but its field of view will be much larger.

A space station open to everyone

Although the Chinese space station, expanded to six modules, accounts for only 40% of the mass of the ISS, it could become a credible alternative to the private space stations announced as successors to the ISS, which are scheduled to be decommissioned in January 2031. China, which as of 2020 invited all UN member countries to use its space station, plans to commercialize its use and open it to various commercial activities, including space tourism. In this context of opening, traffic and crew rotation to Tiangong could be significant by the end of the decade.