According to Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China’s manned space project, China will launch the core module Tianhe (天和, Harmony of the Heavens) of the country’s first space station in the first half of 2021.
Tiangong (天宫, Heavenly Palace) is the space program of the People’s Republic of China, with the aim of creating a modular space station (中國 空間站).
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The Chinese station, preceded by the Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2 space laboratories, retired in 2018 and 2019, is the third in the history of its kind, after the Mir and the ISS. The station will carry out scientific missions.
The new space station is expected to be ready in 2022 (according to other sources the station will be operational in 2023). The whole testing phase has been completed. The Long March 5B rocket, which made its maiden voyage in May, is also in the final stages of testing.
After the central module enters orbit, China will launch the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft and the Shenzhou-12 manned spacecraft. The crew will remain in space for several months before the launch of Tianzhou-3 and the Shenzhou-13 spacecraft with a second crew aboard, Zhou added.
“During this time, we will carry out a full test of new space station technologies, including astronaut spacewalk, robotic arms and energy technologies,” he said.
When all verification work is done, researchers can begin building key technologies. At this stage, two more cargo and two crewed spacecraft will be sent into space.
“All these works will last for about two years so the entire Chinese space station is expected to be completed around 2022, after which it will enter operation, and we will be able to use it to engage in space science research,” he said.