DrPreparations for the launch of the Chinese “Long March 5B” missile, together with the basic unit to build the “Tiangong” (Sky Palace) space station, are in full swing. At Wenchuan Space Station on Hainan Island in southern China, the launcher has been ready on the launch pad since the weekend. It remains unknown when exactly the start will take place. Experts expect the Langer March 5B to take off on April 28. This is supported by the fact that Chinese police have ordered traffic restrictions around the spaceport, which are supposed to run from Wednesday evening to Thursday evening.
With the construction of the space station, China has started its largest ambitious space program project to date. So far, there have been two smaller ancestors: Tiangong 1 space laboratory was launched into space in 2011 and burned uncontrollably in the atmosphere in 2018. Its successor, Tiangong 2, was launched in 2016. Two astronauts lived and experimented there. For 29 days. In July 2019, China allowed Tiangong 2 to burn in a controlled manner after nearly three years.
The “Tianhe” (Celestial Harmony) base unit of the new space station, which could not be completed until next year at the earliest, is in the cargo hold of the launch vehicle. Tianhe is 16.6 meters long and 4.2 meters in diameter. The base unit provides electricity, propulsion and accommodation for three astronauts who can stay on board for up to six months. Two other T-shaped scientific experiments parts are attached.
Shortly after the launch of the Chinese base unit, the “Tianzhu 2” space cargo vehicle could track with fuel and supplies in May. Three astronauts are currently preparing to fly to Tianhe aboard the Shenzhou 12 spacecraft, possibly in June. The construction phase requires an elaborate flight plan: Eleven flights have been planned – three with units, four cargo missions, and four manned spaceflight, as announced by the Chinese space program. The young space nation prepared for the complex project with Tiangong 1 and Tiangong 2. Meet and refueling maneuvers as well as space walks were practiced.
If the ISS were to cease operating in the coming years – and secure its operation until 2024 – China would likely be the only country with a space station. While Russia and the United States are currently discussing what to do with the International Space Station after 2024, the two countries are contemplating their new settlement bases in space. The Russian space agency Roscosmos would like to have its own station in orbit around Earth in 2030, while NASA has its eyes set on the moon. The station, known as the Moon Gate, is supposed to orbit the Earth’s satellite and be the starting point for people to land on the moon’s surface. According to NASA, the first components cannot be brought into space until 2024 at the earliest.