Work on space lab tak­ing off

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHAO LEI in Bei­jing zhaolei@chi­

China is de­vel­op­ing and test­ing the Tian­gong II space lab­o­ra­tory, Shen­zhou XI manned space­craft and Tianzhou I cargo space­craft amid a mas­sive space ex­plo­ration drive, ac­cord­ing to the country’s ma­jor space­craft maker.

“Un­like Tian­gong I, the Tian­gong II will be a gen­uine space lab. It is set to per­form a lot of space sci­en­tific and ap­pli­ca­tion ex­per­i­ments and make prepa­ra­tions for our fu­ture space sta­tion,” said Liao Jian­lin, deputy chief de­signer of Tian­gong II at the China Academy of Space Tech­nol­ogy in Bei­jing. He made the re­mark to Chi­nese re­porters in an open house for the me­dia to mark the first China Space Day on Sun­day.

The State Coun­cil an­nounced in late March that start­ing this year, April 24 — the day China launched its first satel­lite into space in 1970 — would be marked as China Space Day.

Liao said Tian­gong II has two cab­ins with dif­fer­ent func­tions. The “ex­per­i­ment cabin” will be her­met­i­cally sealed, with as­tro­nauts liv­ing in it and con­duct­ing their mis­sions, while the “re­source cabin” will con­tain so­lar pan­els, stor­age bat­ter­ies, pro­pel­lant and en­gines.

The lab will be launched in the third quar­ter. The Shen-zhou XI space­craft, which will carry two as­tro­nauts, will be launched in the fourth quar­ter and will dock with the space lab. The as­tro­nauts will stay in Shen­zhou XI and Tian­gong II for 30 days.

In the first half of next year, a next-gen­er­a­tion Long March 7 rocket will trans­port the Tian-zhou I cargo space­craft to dock with Tian­gong II to re­sup­ply fuel and other ma­te­ri­als and test in-or­bit re­plen­ish­ment tech­nolo­gies, ac­cord­ing to the China Manned Space Agency.

The agency said the Shen-zhou XI’s two as­tro­nauts are re­ceiv­ing train­ing. It added that the Tian­gong II, Shen-zhou XI, the two Long March 2F rock­ets that will send them into space, as well as the Long March 7 rocket and Tianzhou I, are all be­ing as­sem­bled.

China’s multi­bil­lion- dol­lar manned space pro­gram, a source of in­creas­ing na­tional pride, aims to put a per­ma­nent manned sta­tion in space in the near fu­ture. The sta­tion will con­sist of a core mod­ule at­tached to two labs, each weigh­ing about 20 met­ric tons.

Around 2018, China will lift the core mod­ule, Tianhe I, into space. The mod­ule will have five dock­ing hatches ca­pa­ble of con­nect­ing with a cargo space­craft, two manned space­ships and two ex­per­i­ment cab­ins. It also will have a hatch for as­tro­nauts to exit the space sta­tion for ac­tiv­i­ties out­side the space­craft, ac­cord­ing to Zhou Jian­ping, chief de­signer of the country’s manned space pro­gram.

By 2022, the Chi­nese space sta­tion will be­come fully op­er­a­tional, ac­cord­ing to the China Manned Space Agency. It noted that China will be­come the only owner of a space sta­tion in 2024, when the In­ter­na­tional Space Sta­tion will re­tire.

China launched its first space lab, Tian­gong I, in Septem­ber 2011. With a des­ig­nated life span of two years, it has been in ser­vice for four-anda-half years and is in good con­di­tion. The space lab has suc­cess­fully con­ducted six au­to­matic and as­tro­naut-con­trolled dock­ings with the Shen­zhou VIII, Shen­zhou IX and Shen­zhou X space­craft.

Cur­rently, there are 106 space­craft de­vel­oped by the China Academy of Space Tech­nol­ogy that are in ac­tive ser­vice. The academy is ca­pa­ble of pro­duc­ing 30 space­craft and de­vel­op­ing 80 more each year, it said.


A drone is on dis­play at an expo in Bei­jing on Tues­day.

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