Assembly of Chinese space station begins with successful core module launch – Spaceflight Now

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Spaceflight Now 29 April, 2021 - 02:21am 11 views

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China successfully launches first module of planned space station

CNN 29 April, 2021 - 06:01pm

Updated 5:14 AM ET, Thu April 29, 2021

China, Russia and America: A Cold War in Cold Space | Opinion

Newsweek 29 April, 2021 - 06:01pm

Tianhe, the first of three modules forming the core of China's third space station, is designed for three "taikonauts" at a time. The first batch is scheduled to arrive in orbit in June.

Between now and the end of next year, China plans to launch 11 rockets to complete construction of the CSS, as the Chinese space station is now called. China's station will be about one-sixth of the mass of the International Space Station (ISS), which has been circling the earth since 1998.

China also plans to put its Xuntian optical module, a Hubble-size telescope with 300 times the field of Hubble's view, into orbit only a few hundred kilometers from the CSS.

Moscow is also busy in space. This month, Russian television quoted Deputy Prime Minister Yury Borisov as saying Russia will pull out of the ISS in 2025. The aging station, the only one now in orbit, is unsafe, Moscow claims.

Moreover, Dmitry Rogozin, the chief of the Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities, posted a video on Telegram last week, stating that "work is already underway on the first basic module for the new Russian orbital service station." The module will be launched in 2025.

The ISS has been one of the most visible cooperative ventures between Russia and the U.S. in recent years, so the withdrawal is seen as symbolic.

Symbolic or not, Moscow will now go on its own. With the fate of the ISS in doubt—it is in fact nearing the end of its useful life—there could be a "space station gap," as radio talk show host John Batchelor said this week. China's CSS has been built to last more than a decade.

And that is not the only gap that may open up. China and Russia have big plans in space. Last month, they signed an open-ended agreement to build one or more lunar research stations on the surface, in orbit or perhaps both. On the April 23, on the sidelines of the United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space, the pair invited other nations to participate in the International Lunar Research Station. Roscosmos had previously rejected an offer from NASA to join in a similar lunar facility.

A cold war in the cold domain of space is fast approaching. Chinese ambition and money and Russian technology are teaming up to take on the United States. The pair could be on the verge of dominating the high ground, especially if it can attract other nations to participate in planned joint ventures.

China, in particular, will undoubtedly try to entice international partners away from the American-led ISS. As Brandon Weichert, author of the recently released Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower, told Newsweek, if Beijing is successful there will be "massive tech transfers from those countries to China." This and other developments, he says, will "make Chinese space firms more competitive against American ones, which means that the vital infrastructure supporting human space operations could very well become Chinese rather than American."

Richard Fisher of the Virginia-based International Assessment and Strategy Center tells Newsweek that a planned module for the CSS could be used to store weapons and, perhaps, bomb the earth from orbit.

China may end up operating two space stations. Fisher, an expert on China's military, reports that a Chinese source at the 2014 International Astronautical Congress told him that Beijing is thinking of a larger "second-generation" station. He says the plans for a bigger one make sense when the Long March 9 space launch vehicle enters service next decade.

China has other programs that suggest an intent to dominate space. For instance, it plans a 12,992-satellite "mega-constellation" to compete with SpaceX's proposed Starlink constellation. If China succeeds and Elon Musk's company does not—SpaceX faces opposition from both regulators and rivals—Beijing will almost certainly end up dominating 5G and 6G communications on earth.

At the moment, U.S. law imposes severe restrictions on working with the Chinese space program, and many in the scientific community are chafing under those prohibitions—including the Biden administration's NASA. Tricia Larose of the University of Oslo asked Scientific American recently, "When are we going to stop looking at our differences and start focusing on our similarities?"

China has made it clear it wants cooperation from scientists around the world. Beijing has even branded its space station with attractive names. The first module is named Tianhe, which translates as "Harmony of the Heavens." The two other main modules are Wentian ("Quest for the Heavens") and Mengtian ("Dreaming of the Heavens").

China named its Mars rover Zhurong. The Xinhua News Agency explains Zhurong is the god of fire and tells us "Zhu" means "well wishes" and "rong" translates as "integration." China's official media outlet does not mention, however, that Zhurong is also a god of war—and the god of the South China Sea.

South China Sea? "The universe is an ocean, the moon is the Diaoyu Islands, Mars is Huangyan Island," said Ye Peijian, the head of China's lunar program, in July 2018. Huangyan is Beijing's name for Scarborough Shoal. Scarborough is in the South China Sea, and Beijing has already seized that reef from the Philippines.

"Zhurong," unfortunately, is a hint of what Beijing has in store for us in space.

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China launches key component of permanent space station

FRANCE 24 English 29 April, 2021 - 06:01pm

China launches first Tiangong space station module | DW | 29.04.2021

Deutsche Welle 29 April, 2021 - 06:01pm

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China has launched the main module of a permanent space station, marking another milestone for the country's extraterrestrial ambitions. The launch is the first of 11 missions needed to construct and supply the station.

The launch kickstarted a series of missions to complete the construction of the station by the end of next year

The core module for China's first permanent space station, set for completion by the end of next year, blasted off from Earth on Thursday.

The launch represents the latest success for the country's rapidly advancing space program.

Chinese state television showed lift-off from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on the southern island of Hainan aboard a Long-March 5B rocket.

The craft carried the Tianhe (Heavenly Harmony) module, the first of at least three sections that will make up the Tiangong (Heaven's Palace) space station.

Chinese Premier Li Keqiang watched blast-off from the mission's control center in Beijing, along with other top civilian and military leaders.

Minutes later, the rocket structure opened to reveal the Tianhe with the Chinese characters for China, manned and space emblazoned on it.

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message of congratulations to staff. He said the launch represented the start of "an important leading project for constructing a powerful country in science and technology and aerospace."

The rocket is expected to remain in space for about a week before it falls back to Earth.

Visitors stand near a giant screen displaying images of the planned Tianhe space station

The core module already contains the living quarters and life support equipment for China's "taikonauts."

A further 10 launches will send up two more modules — where the crews will carry out experiments — four cargo supply shipments and four missions with crews on board.

The other two modules, Wentian (Quest for the Heavens) and Mengtian (Dreaming of the Heavens)' will provide space for the crew to carry out scientific experiments.

It's expected that the next two launches will follow in close succession, including a blast-off for the cargo spacecraft Tianzhou 2 (Heavenly Ship 2) in May. The first crewed mission, Shenzhou-12, is expected to be launched by June.

A three-person crew is to live there onboard the station — which has an expected life span of about 10 years — for six months at a time.

At least 12 astronauts are training to fly to and live on Tiangong, including veterans of previous spaceflight flights. There will also be female taikonauts.

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The T-shaped space station's three modules weigh about 66 metric tons, which makes Tiangong considerably smaller than the International Space Station (ISS) at about 420 tons. It could, however, be expanded to as many as six modules.

The station will be about the same size as the US Skylab space station of the 1970s and the former Soviet/Russian Mir, which operated from 1986 to 2001.

China has previously sent up prototype space stations, with the launch of a space lab Tiangong-1 in 2011, and Tiangong-2 in 2016.

The country began working on the project in 1992, being forced to go it alone when it was excluded from the ISS because of US objections. Washington claimed that the Chinese space program was too secretive and that it was too closely tied to the military.

The ISS — a collaboration involving the US, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan — is due to be retired after 2024. NASA has said the station, launched in 1998, could potentially remain functional beyond 2028.

When the ISS does stop operating, Tiangong could become the only space station in Earth's orbit.

While Beijing has no specific plans for international cooperation, it has said it is open to foreign collaboration. The European Space Agency has already sent astronauts to China for training to work aboard the Chinese station.

As many as 900,000 hazardous pieces of space junk are presently circling around the Earth. Japanese companies are testing innovative solutions to eradicate the threat.  

Sometimes referred to as the "forgotten" member of the historic Apollo 11 mission — Michael Collins never got to walk on the moon, but has been hailed as a "true pioneer."  

Russia and China are reaching for the moon, with plans to construct a "complex of experimental research facilities" there as they strive to expand their presence in space.  

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China Advances Space Station Ambition With Module Launch

The Wall Street Journal 29 April, 2021 - 07:35am

The 22-ton Tianhe module will eventually serve as the life-support and control center for taikonauts, as Chinese astronauts are called. It was launched Thursday morning from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on Hainan, an island off China’s southwestern coast.

China is planning a series of other launches into orbit this year, some of which will combine with Tianhe to form the Tiangong, or Heavenly Palace, space station. The country plans for the permanent space base to be operational by next year. It is seen as a rival to the much larger International Space Station, the multinational base involving space agencies including NASA.

“The successful launch of the Tianhe core module indicates that the construction of our country’s space station has entered the stage of full implementation and lays a solid foundation for subsequent missions,” Chinese President Xi Jinping was quoted as saying by state media agency Xinhua.

Mr. Xi said that the construction of the space station and the completion of a national space laboratory were important goals for China’s manned spaceflight project and an important step toward the nation becoming powerful in science, technology and aerospace.

China launches core module of new space station to orbit

Space.com 28 April, 2021 - 10:38pm

Tianhe will be the central piece of the T-shaped Chinese Space Station.

But Tianhe will see considerable action far before then: A Chinese cargo spacecraft is expected to visit the module next month, and three astronauts will come aboard in June, if all goes according to plan.

The uncrewed Shenzhou 8 spacecraft docked autonomously with Tiangong 1 in November 2011. Then, in June 2012, Shenzhou 9 carried three astronauts to the space lab for a two-week stay. A year later, three more crewmembers visited Tiangong 1 for two weeks on the Shenzhou 10 mission. (The Shenzhou program had three crewed orbital human spaceflights under its belt before the Tiangong 1 visits, sending astronauts aloft in 2003, 2005 and 2008.) 

The Chinese station's managers have already selected about 100 experiments to conduct on the craft, and some of them could start gathering data as soon as next year, Scientific American reported. 

None of those nine research projects are based in the United States, which isn't terribly surprising. U.S. law prohibits NASA and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from cooperating with their Chinese counterparts on space-related activities, unless Congress has granted approval of such cooperation in advance. This prohibition, which has been in place since 2011, is known as the Wolf Amendment after its champion, former Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Virginia).

And China is not a partner in the ISS consortium, which is led by the space agencies of the U.S., Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada. 

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