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China to double size of its space station

2023/10/7 16:48:21   source:CGTN

China plans to expand its space station into six modules from the existing three in coming years, Zhang Qiao, a researcher at the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), said on Wednesday.

The space station will play an important role as "space home port," providing an alternative platform for a near-Earth space station, according to Zhang. The expert made the remarks at the 74th International Astronautical Congress (IAC) held in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan.

It will be at 180 tonnes after expansion, about 40 percent of the mass of the International Space Station, which has been in orbit for over two decades and is expected to be decommissioned after 2030, according to Reuters.

Zhang said the operational lifetime of the space station will be over 15 years, more than the 10 years the country previously announced.

The China Space Station now consists of three modules – the Tianhe core module, and Wentian and Mengtian lab modules.

Its core module was launched in April 2021, and the Mengtian module in July 2022. Since the launch of the Mengtian module in October last year, the space station has been fully operational.

Expanded interfaces for the core module and Wentian module are being developed to host large payloads in the future.

Regarding the expansion, Zhang said that an inflatable deployable module is also in the plan, to be used as the expansion module for the near-Earth space station and a preliminary verification for manned lunar exploration.

Other plans, including the development of large space antennas and telescopes, three-dimensional printers, intelligent robots and a debris observation, detection and warning system, are also underway.

A digital twin of the station will also be constructed, and big data and AI technology will also be developed to predict the working status and operation management of in-orbit spacecraft.

China follows the principle of peaceful use, equality, mutual benefit and common development, according to Zhang, adding that the country will conduct more international collaboration and exchanges with other countries and regions.

Lyu Congmin, deputy chief designer of the space utilization system for China's manned space program, told the conference that more than 100 scientific research projects for the space station have been initiated, of which 65 have been implemented and 48 are ongoing.

A new round of proposal solicitation is expected to be held soon, according to Lyu.

The IAC is an annual meeting of space industry experts to explore the untapped potential of space for the benefit of humanity.

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