China to expand its space station into six modules, posing an alternative to ISS - Hindustan Times
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China to expand its space station into six modules, posing an alternative to International Space Station

Oct 05, 2023 07:12 PM IST

China's Tiangong space station aims to solidify its position in space exploration by 2030.

China has unveiled ambitious plans to expand its existing space station, Tiangong, increasing its modules from three to six in the coming years. This development aims to provide an alternative platform for near-Earth missions, particularly for astronauts from other nations, as the NASA-led International Space Station (ISS) approaches the end of its operational lifespan, expected around 2030.

China is not part of the International Space Station programme.(Representative Image/AP)
China is not part of the International Space Station programme.(Representative Image/AP)

During the 74th International Astronautical Congress held in Baku, Azerbaijan, the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), a key unit of China's primary space contractor, said that they are planning to increase the lifespan of the space station from 10 years to 15 years now, Reuters reported.

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What is Tiangong?

The Chinese space station, known as Tiangong, which translates to "Sky Palace," represents China's latest venture into space, succeeding the Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2 modules. Currently, Tiangong boasts a mass of 96,000 kg, with dimensions of 55.6 meters in length and 39 meters in width. Future expansion plans include the addition of three more modules, with the fourth module, tentatively named "Xuntian," scheduled for launch in 2024.

Tiangong orbits Earth at altitudes ranging from 340 to 450 kilometres, a trajectory similar to that of the ISS. However, Tiangong is significantly smaller and lighter than the ISS, with only three modules compared to the ISS's 16.

What is the International Space Station?

The International Space Station Program represents a collaboration of key space agencies from the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan, and Canada. It involves international flight crews, a range of launch vehicles, globally distributed launch and flight operations, training facilities, engineering and development resources, communication networks, and the international scientific research community. China is not a participant in the International Space Station program.

As the ISS, with over two decades of operational history and more than 200 visiting astronauts, approaches its planned decommissioning around 2030, China aims to solidify its position as a major player in the realm of space exploration by then.

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