China: The first of the three modules of the future Chinese Space Station (CSS) was successfully launched on Wednesday (28). The takeoff took place at the Wenchang Launch Center, on the island of Hainan, powered by a Long March-5B rocket.
With 16.6 meters in length and 4.2 meters in diameter, the Tianhe module (“Harmony of the skies”, in free translation) will be the central element of the orbital laboratory operated by China, where the control center and the accommodation of the astronauts.
Weighing 22 tonnes, the Tianhe is the size of a five-story building and can accommodate up to six residents simultaneously. It also brings a system of doors for the docking of the next missions, which will take the remaining modules for the formation of the structure, in addition to allowing space walks.
The new station will be positioned in low Earth orbit, when completed, operating between 340 km and 370 km in altitude, just below the International Space Station (ISS), located more than 400 km above the Earth’s surface.
Operating from 2022
Also known as Tiangong (“Celestial Palace”), the CSS should be ready for operation in the second half of 2022. The operation to assemble the 90-ton structure will also include the realization of at least 10 more missions.
The next will take place in May, carrying some supplies for the station, while the third is scheduled to take off in June, taking the first three inhabitants of Tianhe. Another three manned trips are scheduled, transporting professionals who will work on the completion of the work.
When ready, the Chinese Space Station will be used to carry out the most varied types of scientific experiments under conditions of microgravity, including allowing the presence of foreign researchers, as planned by the government. It must remain functional for at least 10 years, but the term can be extended by carrying out maintenance over time.