China launches the first module of the new space station into orbit | Smart News
On April 28, China launched the first Chinese Space Station (CSS) module into the cosmos. Dubbed Tianhe or “Harmony of the Heavens,” the 16.6-meter-long spacecraft is the first of three modules that will eventually form a T-shaped space station by the end of 2022, reports Mike Wall for Space.com.
In September 2011, China first launched a mini space laboratory prototype, Tiangong 1, to test spaceflight and the technologies needed to support a larger space station in Earth orbit, Space.com reports. In 2016, the second Tiangong 2 laboratory was also launched, but none remain in orbit. However, Tiangong 1 and Tiangong 2 were essential plans for Tianhe’s approval for take-off with the Shenzhou Missions, Ling Xin reports for American scientist.
Now that Tianhe is in orbit, China is planning ten more launches of other space modules as well as crewed and cargo missions to complete construction of the CSS. When the T-shaped space station is fully assembled and operational, it will consist of three main modules. Tianhe, the first main module, and two 14.4 meter long modules named Wentian or “Quest for the Heavens” and Mengtian or “Dreaming of the Heavens” will be permanently attached to Tianhe, American scientist reports. Tianhe will serve as CSS’s central management and control center with enough space to accommodate three astronauts for six months. Tianhe also has five quayside ports that can be used for future expansion, reports American scientist.
Designed to operate for over a decade, the CSS will have 14 refrigerator-sized experiment racks and 50 external anchor points designed for off-station experiments to test the reaction of materials. in space, report Space.com. At just 20 percent the size of the International Space Station (ISS), the CSS is equipped for various research efforts, with around 100 experiments and missions already planned, American scientist reports.
A total of six international and collaborative experiences have been approved to take place on board the CSS. One project, for example, is focusing on the effects of microgravity on tumors, with particular emphasis on whether microgravity can stop or slow the growth of cancer cells, reports American scientist. Others will observe the phase changes of liquids and gases in microgravity to improve cooling technology in space – or even in laptops here on Earth. The collaborative research effort includes scientists in Norway, the Netherlands, France and Belgium, reports Katie Hunt for CNN. However, as CSS calls for international collaboration, the United States is currently banning NASA from collaborating with China on space activities, reports Space.com.
In 2022, the CSS will join the ISS as the only fully operational space stations currently in orbit. For two decades, the ISS has been the symbol of space collaboration between various countries, with close involvement of the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada and European countries, reports CNN. However, as the ISS continues to age, several countries have already decided to build their own space stations. Russia, for example, has announced plans to leave the ISS in 2025 and put its space station into orbit by 2030. The plan is awaiting approval from President Vladimir Putin, reports Reuters.
While the ISS may play a key role in NASA’s plans to focus on moon landing missions and missions to Mars, NASA wants commercialize the ISS to cover annual operating costs of $ 1.1 billion, CNN reports. Currently, the ISS is approved to operate until 2024, Meghan Bartels reported for Space.com Last year.
“While the ISS is currently approved to operate at least until December 2024 by international partner governments, from a technical point of view, we have cleared the ISS to fly until the end of 2028,” said NASA officials wrote in a statement to Space.com. “Additionally, our analysis did not identify any issues that would prevent us from extending beyond 2028 if necessary.”