Chinese space station

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Chinese space station


Span: 26.8 m
Length: 16.6 m
Depth: 4.2 m
Volume: 50 m³
Dimensions: 22.5 t
Apogee height : 392 km
Perigee height : 360 km
Orbit inclination : 41.5 °
Orbital time : approx. 92 min
COSPAR designation : 2021-035A
power supply
Electrical power: 9 kW
Solar cell area: 134 m²
Flight statistics measured on the Tianhe core module, current status
Time in orbit: 6 days
The Chinese space station.  In the middle the core module, to the right and left the science modules still to be started, above a Tianzhou space transporter, below a Shenzhou spacecraft.

The Chinese space station. In the middle the core module, to the right and left the science modules still to be started, above a Tianzhou space transporter, below a Shenzhou spacecraft.

The Chinese Space Station ( Chinese 中國空間站 / 中国空间站, Pinyin Zhōngguó Kōngjiānzhàn ) is from the Office of Human Spaceflight developed in the future permanently manned space station in low Earth orbit from about 340 to 420 km altitude with an orbital inclination of approximately 42 °.

Construction of the station began on April 29, 2021 with the start of the “Tianhe” core module. By 2022, it is to be expanded to include two science modules that are firmly connected to the core module in a T-shape, as well as a free-flying space telescope nearby that can be docked for maintenance work. If necessary, the space station, which is intended for a regular crew of three people, can be extended by a second T at the rear lock, which was intended for space transporters in the first phase, and then offers space for six space travelers. Since the space station has to be moved occasionally, it must not have a mass of more than 180 t. Further expansion is then no longer possible. A total of seven manned flights to the space station are planned by the end of 2023.


The on 21 September 1992 by the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China approved Manned Space Program of the People's Republic of China , known for the date as "Project 921", consists of three phases:

  1. Manned spaceships, later known as " Shenzhou "
  2. Briefly inhabited space laboratories, later known as " Tiangong "
  3. A long-term occupied space station

On September 25, 2010, one year before the first space laboratory , Tiangong 1 , was launched, the Politburo under Secretary General Hu Jintao officially approved the “Plan for a Manned Space Station” (载人 空间站 工程 实施 方案), or “Project 921-3” for short “, The corresponding funds were released by the State Council of the People's Republic of China . As a result, a new area of ​​responsibility was set up in October 2010 for the manned space program, the so-called " space station system " (空间站 系统, Pinyin Kōngjiānzhàn Xìtǒng ). The space station system is under the responsibility of the Chinese Academy for Space Technology , a subsidiary of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation , but the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation and the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation are also involved in the development and construction of the space station . Like all areas of responsibility of the manned space program, the space station system has a more or less political commander (总指挥), currently Wang Xiang (王翔), and a technical director (总设计师), currently Yang Hong (杨宏, * 1963). Both are science councils with the rank of professors (研究员) at the Academy of Space Technology.

One of the key technologies for building a modular space station is the coupling mechanism. This system, which is similar to the Russian APAS , in which the active spaceship or module detects its position in relation to the station with the aid of a CCD sensor in the last phase of the approach process and automatically adjusts it, was implemented from February 2005, immediately after the second phase of the space program from Politburo, developed by Research Institute 502 of the Chinese Academy of Space Technology in collaboration with the Research Institute of Image Processing of Harbin Polytechnic University , one of the main problems being the partially blinding sunlight from constantly changing directions. It was first tested on November 3, 2011, when the Shenzhou 8 unmanned spacecraft docked at the Tiangong 1 space laboratory.

From a technical point of view, the modules of the station are spaceships that can maneuver independently with their own engines. On June 19, 2017, coupling from different directions was successfully tested with the Tiangong 2 space laboratory and the Tianzhou 1 supply spaceship . However, these maneuvers are extremely complex for reasons of mechanical and physical trajectory - every change in speed leads to a change in orbital altitude. It was therefore decided right from the start that the branch modules weighing around 22 t should be docked along the longitudinal axis to the lock section of the core module when the station was being set up (see below). When the module and the station are coupled together, a 15 m long mechanical arm with seven joints, initially stowed on the underside of the entrance corridor, is supposed to grip one of two attachment nozzles at the top of the lock section with one end and the newly arrived module with the other end . The module decouples, but remains connected to the station via the arm and is brought into its final position by a side lock, where it is permanently mounted, similar to the assembly of the Soviet-Russian Mir space station using the Lyappa arms.

The mechanical arm is a core component of the space station. That is why those responsible for the manned space program had already contacted the leading research institutes and companies in the country in the field of robotics in 2007, i.e. three years before the 921-3 project was officially started and financed . While there was a competition with around a dozen institutes involved in the search for the best model of a moon rover in 1998 , the institutions addressed were encouraged to work together to deal with the problem - the principle of public tendering was adopted by the department for Weapons development of the Central Military Commission , the successor organization to the main witness office of the People's Liberation Army, which was responsible at the time, only introduced in 2016. A first demonstration model was built, the individual work areas defined and the parts designed for a joint that could be rotated in all directions. At the end of September 2011, the design for the mechanical arm was approved and approved by a commission of experts, and in June 2015 the first tests with a full-size prototype took place in the main development department of the Academy of Space Technology.

In 2010, at the start of the 921-3 project, it was still assumed that the modules would be put into orbit with a Changzheng 2F launch vehicle (maximum payload 8.4 t). One year later, in 2011, work began on developing the Changzheng 5B heavy rocket , which can bring up to 25 t into a near-earth orbit and, thanks to its diameter of 5 m, can carry larger volumes than the Changzheng 2F with its 3.4 m even if you used a cantilevered payload fairing there. On May 5, 2020, the CZ-5B successfully completed its first test flight with the new generation spacecraft .

In the first expansion phase with a core module and two science modules, the entire station has a net weight of 66 t, which increases to 90 t with a coupled Tianzhou space transporter and two manned Shenzhou spaceships (one for transporting crews, the other as an escape space ship). Then there are a good 10 t of exchangeable payloads. When the dimensions of the space station were designed, the dimensions of the International Space Station, which has been under construction since 1998, were clear. However, the engineers made a conscious decision to go for a smaller format that would allow them to achieve maximum benefit with a limited amount of effort - the space station is financed solely by the People's Republic of China . A later expansion of the station by up to three additional modules had been kept open from the start.

The service life of the station was assumed to be 10 years until 2019, but in January 2020 the Chinese state television spoke of an operating life of 15 years. In order to be able to properly manage the payloads , the recruitment campaign launched on April 23, 2018 by the Chinese Spaceman Training Center for the 2020 selection group of the People's Liberation Army space corps addressed not only pilots, but also scientists, plus engineers responsible for construction, maintenance and Repair of the space station will be needed. While the early Shenzhou flights took off about every two years, the crew of the new space station is to be changed initially every four months and then regularly every six months; During the crew change, the station can accommodate six people for about ten days. Therefore, instead of 14 (1998) or 7 (2010), 18 people (17 men and one woman) were selected for the space corps in this selection group. The regular astronaut training lasts four years.

In November 2018, a sample copy of the core module was shown at the International Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai , which had been used for checking and confirming the craftsmanship (welding seams, etc.). At this point in time, the first prototypes of all systems were already being produced. At the end of 2018, the production of the final prototype of the core module began.

Construction phase

The People's Liberation Army space corps began intensive training in early 2019, which formed the basis for selecting the first crew. In May 2020, the four crews who were to take over the construction of the station had been selected and had started training for their respective mission. In addition to the four manned flights to the station, all of which will be carried out with the tried and tested Shenzhou spaceship, four supply flights with the Tianzhou space freighter are also planned during the construction phase .

Construction of the station began on April 29, 2021 at 03:23 UTC with the launch of the Tianhe core module (see below) with a heavy launch vehicle of the Changzheng 5B type from the Wenchang cosmodrome . Then the space freighter Tianzhou 2 is supposed to start with a Changzheng 7 , then the first crew with the spacecraft Shenzhou 12. The crew is supposed to stay at the station for a few months, check the reliable power supply via the solar modules and test the mechanical arm. After that, the space freighter Tianzhou 3 and the next crew follows with the spacecraft Shenzhou 13. During these two layers have to test the key technologies of the space station, many are spacewalks planned. When the technical check has been completed to your satisfaction, the two science modules should be started and installed. After two years, at the end of 2022, the construction of the space station should be completed.

Spacecraft assembly building of the Jiuquan Cosmodrome

The starts must take place at precisely defined intervals, otherwise the coupling maneuvers cannot be carried out (“zero start window” or 零 窗口). This represents a considerable challenge, especially for refueling the Changzheng 5 and Changzheng 7, which use cryogenic fuels. The engineers use the actual start of the core module as a fixed point from which all other start times are calculated. Since the core module was successfully placed in its orbit during this launch on April 29, 2021, there was a time window of ± 1 minute for the Tianzhou 2 space freighter to launch on May 20, 2021.

A total of seven manned flights to the space station are planned by the end of 2023, all of which will be carried out with rockets of the Changzheng 2F / G type , with a fully assembled rocket always ready for possible rescue missions. This is possible because the spacecraft assembly building on the Jiuquan Cosmodrome was designed in 1994 in connection with the Tiangong space laboratory missions so that the parallel assembly of two rockets can be carried out in two workshops. The transport of a CZ-2F from the spacecraft assembly building to the launch pad, which can only take place at wind speeds of less than 10 m / s, takes a good hour; refueling begins 29 hours before launch in regular use.


The Chinese space station as a 3D model

For the naming of the station, its modules and the transport spaceship intended to supply it , the manned space flight agency, supported by the Internet company Tencent , launched a competition on April 8, 2011, in which all Chinese, regardless of whether they are in Germany or Abroad, were able to submit proposals from April 25th. On the one hand, this was intended as an advertising measure for the manned space program , and on the other hand, it was intended to establish the space station as a national symbol. From the total of 152,640 proposals submitted, a jury ( Yang Liwei etc.) first made a pre-selection of 30 names each. From these, 10 names were then chosen from 19.6 million Chinese in a month-long internet vote, from which a commission of engineers, writers, etc. finally chose the final names. It then took another two years for the final names to be determined and approved by the State Council. On October 31, 2013, the Manned Space Agency announced the names:

  • Entire space station: Tiangong (天宫, Heavenly Palace ), like the first two space laboratories , but without a number
  • Core module: Tianhe (天和, heavenly harmony ), a quote from the Zhuangzi : the space station lives in harmony with the sky or space, the core module unites and harmonizes the other modules
  • Science module: Wentian (问 天, sky survey ), in the sense of "to complain to the sky (about natural disasters or similar)"
  • Space Telescope: Xuntian (巡天, sky screenable ) of Mao Zedong "send the plague God to hell" in the poem (送瘟神) "make his patrol in the sky" in the sense of use
  • Transport spaceship : Tianzhou (天 舟, sky ship )

The term “Heavenly Palace” for the entire space station has not been used since 2018; since that time the space station has been simply called “space station” (空间站). The space telescope was originally supposed to be coupled to the core module. At the beginning of 2016, it was decided to orbit the earth separately, but close to the space station. The free space is now taken by a second science module called Mengtian (梦 天, heavenly dream ), an allusion to Xi Jinping'sChinese Dream ”, in which space travel is an important component .

In the same competition, proposals were also sought for the logo of the manned space program and the space station. The winning logo combined the character 中 for 中国 or “China” with the jet of fire from a launching rocket for the space spirit , the space station with its solar cell wings and the image of an eagle with outstretched wings for the soaring plans of the manned space program. The exact proportions and color scheme were then determined by the manned space flight office.


Tianhe core module

The core module Tianhe

The core module Tianhe (German: Heavenly Harmony) is the control center of the space station, where life support systems , power supply, navigation, propulsion and attitude control are located . The module is 16.6 m long, its largest diameter is 4.2 m and its takeoff weight is 22.5 t. The core module offers three space travelers space to live and work; Experiments can be carried out there even without the addition of the science modules.

The core module has a spherical lock section at its front end, to which spaceships manned from the front and below can couple and uncouple. The science modules will be fixed to the left and right of the section at a later point in time, while the exit hatch for spacecraft will be located at the top . The lock section is followed by a corridor with a diameter of 2.8 m, which leads to the living and working cabin of the module. The parabolic antenna for data transmission to the earth and the 12 m long solar modules are attached to the outside of the corridor section . The two solar cell wings of the core module with a total area of ​​134 m² and an efficiency of more than 30% deliver a good 9 kW of electricity. To put it into perspective: each of the four HET-80 ion thrusters (see below) has an electrical power consumption of 700 W. Behind the corridor, the diameter of the module increases to 4 m, which means that the space travelers have about 50 m³ of living space available. When the two science modules are installed - probably in 2022 - the free space will increase to 110 m³.

The engine room with the life support systems, the fuel tanks and the four main engines, which are equally spaced around the outside of the module, follow the living area. The engine room can be crossed by a tunnel that leads to the rear lock, so that the space travelers from the new generation spaceship , if it is operating in its configuration as an unmanned supply spaceship , can unload food packages etc. and load return freight. The station's position control takes place via 22 control nozzles and six torque gyros , which are arranged on the outside at the transition between the entrance corridor and the living area. In addition, the station can still be maneuvered with the engines of a supply spaceship coupled to the rear lock, be it the new generation spaceship or a Tianzhou type freighter .

For the routine maintenance of the orbital height, which would decrease over time due to the gravitational pull of the earth and the friction with the thin gases of the thermosphere without supportive measures, the core module at the stern has four Hall drive - ion thrusters of the type HET-80, which are in two groups of two are arranged on the top and bottom. Each of these engines developed by the Shanghai Institute for Space Propulsion of the Academy for Liquid Rocket Engine Technology has a thrust of 80 mN, the specific impulse is 1600 s or 15.7 km / s, the thrust impulse is 2  MN · s . As supporting mass is xenon used. In a test carried out from December 11, 2016 to April 25, 2018 at the Joint Laboratory for Plasma and Propulsion (等离子体 与 推进 联合 实验室) of the Beijing Aerospace University , one specimen completed 8241 hours of operation, what corresponded to the required 8000 operating hours during the module's expected service life of 10 years.

Science module Wentian

The science module Wentian

The first science module, weighing around 22 t, fulfills its actual task as a platform for experiments as well as control functions for the entire space station; it also serves as a storage room for spare parts - around 60-70% of the devices in the space station can be repaired in orbit - as well as consumables (Food, diapers, etc.) and as a shelter in an emergency. The Wentian science module has its own mechanical arm on the outside of its middle section, in order to be able to move the containers attached there for experiments in a vacuum, as well as an air lock for spacecraft operations.

Science module Mengtian

The Mengtian science module

The Mengtian science module, which also weighs 22 t, also has devices for accommodating scientific payloads, both inside and outside of the module, as well as an airlock for passing through payload containers and equipment that is received by a spaceman on the outside. Behind the connecting door to the central lock section, in the Mengtian science module, there is initially a work cabin, followed by a multi-purpose test section. Inside there is space for 13 payloads, both in individual containers and in entire control cabinets. In addition, in the I. and III. In the quadrant of the outer shell, i.e. on the side facing the earth and the side facing in the opposite direction, large flaps are opened, on the inside of which up to eight payloads mounted there can be exposed to space, in the space under the flap another eight. Together with the payloads permanently mounted on the outside, 37 experiments can be carried out in a vacuum.

Payloads and international cooperation

In principle, the Center for Projects and Technologies for Using Space of the Chinese Academy of Sciences is responsible for the construction, testing and maintenance of the payloads on the space station . In addition, there are also direct collaborations with research institutions. For example, the Yunnan Agricultural University is interested in the cultivation of crops suitable for the high mountains and has been working with the manned space program in this area since the Shenzhou-9 mission . By exposing plant seeds to space conditions and then propagating them on earth, it was possible to obtain a large number of useful variations in pu-erh tea, etc. On July 23, 2014, the Yunnan Provincial Government and the Manned Space Bureau signed a framework agreement for strategic cooperation that secured a place for these experiments on the space station and regulated technical cooperation. This framework agreement was expanded in September 2017 and December 2020 so that it is now possible, for example, for Yunnan companies to advertise with the term “space-grade food” (航天 级 食品).

In addition, since 2017 there have been increasing requests from abroad to be able to continue to live and work in the near-earth region after the foreseeable end of the International Space Station ISS on the Chinese space station. For example, on February 22nd, 2017, during the visit of President Sergio Mattarella to Beijing, the Agenzia Spaziale Italiana signed a bilateral agreement with the Office for Manned Spaceflight, which deals with cooperation in the field of space medicine during long stays in space as well as scientific Payloads went. At the time, this was in connection with Xi Jinping's invitation to Mattarella to join the New Silk Road , which Italy then did. Regardless of this, ESA also hopes to send astronauts to the Chinese space station who have already started studying the Chinese language. However, it is not intended that non-Chinese spaceships will visit the station. Foreign spacemen would have to travel by Chinese spaceships instead.

As early as June 2016, the Office for Human Spaceflight, as the representative of the Chinese government, concluded an agreement with the United Nations Office for Space Issues that China would make the space station available to all members of the United Nations, especially developing countries, for scientific experiments, including foreign ones Would accommodate spacemen. For this purpose, the main human space department of the Chinese Academy of Space Technology, in cooperation with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, developed standardized interfaces for power supply and temperature control of the payloads as well as standard dimensions for their containers and the attachment nozzles on their outer wall, so that they can be accessed by the mechanical arm of the science module Wentian could be moved.

The Russian state space organization Roskosmos was interested in participating in the construction and supply of the Chinese space station; however, this cooperation sought by Russia did not materialize.

Space medicine

During the construction phase of the space station, the focus of the experiments is on space medicine. The Chinese spaceman training center is in charge of this , which at the end of 2017 contacted a good 200 experts from over 50 Chinese research institutions and together with them defined five research areas:

  • The influence of weightlessness on the health of space travelers during long stays in space and technical possibilities to protect them from this.
Daoyin exercises (representation from the Western Han Dynasty )
  • The influence of cosmic rays on the health of space travelers during long stays in space and technical possibilities to protect them from this. Above all, the radiation dose is to be measured in the organs sensitive to radiation in order to determine the tolerable level and thus to obtain a basis for planning future missions to the moon and Mars.
  • Changes in the behavior and abilities of space travelers during long stays in space, measurement and assessment of these, as well as technologies to adjust them. This is basic research aimed at developing human and machine interaction supported by artificial intelligence .
  • Medical online monitoring in orbit over a longer period of time using sensors woven into clothing.
  • Applying traditional Chinese medicine to space travel, with an emphasis on precautionary measures. Holistic approach with Daoyin breathing exercises (导引), meditation, yoga, massage and acupuncture - all methods that use few resources. Attempt to develop health suits that use woven electrodes to stimulate specific acupuncture points.

Subsequently, an “Expert Commission for Space Medicine Experiments” (航天 医学 实验 领域 专家 Experten) and within this commission again expert groups for the individual subject areas (专业 专家组) were set up. On March 19, 2018, a competition was held on the official website of the manned space program aimed at all legal entities within China that are concerned with the area. By March 2019, 17 research institutes, 34 universities, 11 hospitals and 3 companies had submitted a total of 167 projects, initially by the respective expert group, then by the entire commission under aspects such as technical feasibility, innovation potential, economic and medical benefits for the general population, and ease of use and resource consumption (electricity, water, reagents to be supplied ) were checked. The experiments were then carried out in the laboratory and, if they proved successful, installed in containers suitable for the space station. The core module has its own control cabinet for space medicine experiments, radiation measuring devices built into the outer wall and a laboratory cabinet for analyzing body fluids and other biological samples.

So far there are no doctors among the members of the space corps. This means that the fighter pilots and engineers have to be trained by the spaceman training center to take blood samples, find acupuncture points, etc. The operators of the experiments not only demanded the simplest possible usability, but also detailed teaching material that should enable the astronauts to be able to repair the devices in an emergency. These experiments, which have to be carried out at the station in addition to the physically demanding construction work, the constant preoccupation with diseases, represent a burden for the space travelers. Several psychological experiments are planned, which it is hoped that they could reduce this burden.

Only Chinese operators were involved in the experiments selected through the competition for the construction phase of the station. In addition, however, the astronaut training center also contacted the Institute for Medical and Biological Problems (IMBP) in Russia, the CNES in France and the European Astronaut Center in the German Center for Aerospace in Cologne-Lind , plus with Researchers at numerous universities abroad worked on the topic and initiated cooperation projects for the operational phase of the space station from 2022. In addition to this collaboration with top researchers, actively initiated by China, in May 2018 the United Nations Office for Space Affairs invited “all countries, regardless of their size and level of development” to conduct their experiments on the station.

Most of the experiments selected by the Office for Manned Spaceflight and UNOOSA for the first regular shift in June 2019 focused on physics, for example a project to research gamma-ray bursts from the Max Planck Institute for Extraterrestrial Physics and other institutes in Switzerland , Poland and China. In addition, a project from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences of the Technical and Natural Sciences University of Norway and other institutes in the Netherlands and Belgium was selected to test the theory that cosmic radiation promotes the growth of cancer cells, but weightlessness slows or slows it down stops.

Space debris hazard

The Center for Monitoring of Space Debris of the National Space Agency of China has been responsible for evaluating the threat posed by space debris to spacecraft , triggering a corresponding alarm and coordinating emergency measures . The center has its own database with the orbital data of each piece of debris. Practical supervision and the search for new debris has been entrusted to the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences . There, in turn, the observatory on the purple mountain in Nanjing is assigned to this task, which operates its own research center in cooperation with the Xi'an satellite control center for the observation of targets and debris in space (紫金山 天文台 空间 目标 Zusammenarbeit 碎片 观测 研究 中心). Connected to the research center are optical telescopes in the Nanjing branch offices in Honghe , Yao'an , Xuyi and Delhi as well as in the Nanshan branch of the Xinjiang Astronomical Observatory, the Yunnan Astronomical Observatory on Phoenix Mountain near Kunming and in Changchun .

The space station itself has a radar system that locates approaching objects, warns the crew and the Beijing space control center, and raises or lowers the orbit of the station by means of the main and control engines, possibly with the support of a space freighter docked at the stern, around the micrometeorite or debris to go the way. Depending on the danger situation and the advance warning time, the space travelers go into the Shenzhou spacecraft, which is permanently docked at the bow of the station, or they take refuge in the Wentian science module, where there is a second “command bridge” for the space station. The sleeping cabins of the three space travelers (each one has its own) are located in the corridor section of the Tianhe core module, in the immediate vicinity of the spherical lock section; the station is designed in such a way that the astronauts can leave a damaged section in a maximum of five minutes. From the Jiuquan Cosmodrome in the Gobi Desert, where there are 300 days of flight a year, the rescue spaceship, which is always on standby, can take off within a few days.

In addition, based on the experience with the Tiangong space laboratories, constructive measures for passive protection against space debris were also taken. One of the core systems in which the arrangement of components on the outside cannot be avoided is the cooling system. But here, too, the engineers in the main development department at the Chinese Academy for Space Technology (since 2020 "Major Projects Department") chose a concept where the two heat pipes that transport the cooling medium to the station's radiators only run to a very small extent on the outside which greatly reduces the likelihood of damage.

Mission List

This is the list of flights to the China Space Station (CSS). Modules are highlighted in brown , freighters are highlighted in blue , manned spaceships are highlighted in green . Flights without a COSPAR ID are planned.

Task /
carrier Start ( UTC ) Launch site Coupling (UTC) lock Decoupling (UTC) Duration of the coupling (ddd: hh: mm) Landing / Deorbit (UTC)
1 Tianhe
Core module CZ-5B April 29, 2021
3:23 AM
Wenchang 101 first CSS module - - - -
2 Tianzhou 2 Refueling / supplies CZ-7 May 20, 2021 Wenchang 102 Rear
3 Shenzhou 12 Station review CZ- 2F / G June 10, 2021 Jiuquan 91 Bow / front September 2021
4th Tianzhou 3 Supplies CZ-7 September 2021 Wenchang 102 Rear
5 Shenzhou 13 Station review CZ-2F / G October 2021 Jiuquan 91 Bow / front March 2022
6th Tianzhou 4 Supplies CZ-7 March / April 2022 Wenchang 102 Rear
7th Shenzhou 14 Assembly of the science modules CZ-2F / G May 2022 Jiuquan 91 Bow / bottom November 2022
8th Wentian Science module CZ-5B May / June 2022 Wenchang 101 Bow / port - - -
9 Mengtian Science module CZ-5B August / September 2022 Wenchang 101 Bow / starboard - - -
10 Tianzhou 5 Supplies CZ-7 October 2022 Wenchang 102 Rear
11 Shenzhou 15th Payload monitoring CZ-2F / G November 2022 Jiuquan 91 Bow / front May 2023

Private transportation services

After the planned commissioning of the space station at the end of 2022, crews will change every four to six months. In addition to passenger transport, around two to three supply flights per year are planned for this purpose. The Office of Human Spaceflight has with the space freighter Tianzhou and the spacecraft of the new generation in his freighter configuration providing required transport capacity. In order to also promote the private space industry, as planned in the 14th five-year plan (2021-2025), the office launched a public tender for transport services on January 5, 2021 . There are two categories:

  1. Transport to orbit
    • Delivery quantity per flight 1–4 t (for comparison: Tianzhou can transport 6.5 t, the new generation spacecraft 4 t)
    • From leaving the factory to docking with the space station, a maximum of 45 days (the established spaceships alone need 2 months of preparation time on the cosmodrome)
    • Manual unloading by space travelers, possibility to take away waste, residue-free incineration when re-entering the atmosphere
    • Costs for a flight according to the international market
  2. Transportation to earth
    • Delivery quantity per flight 100–300 kg (the new generation spaceship can bring back up to 2.5 t to earth)
    • Low effort for path tracking, control and recovery, ability of the re-entry vehicle to communicate its position after landing via radio and optical signals

Appropriate concepts could be submitted by February 28, 2021. The agency for manned space travel now decides on the further procedure based on the aspects of innovation, feasibility and economic efficiency (in this order). Licensed space companies were able to find out about this and other planned programs as early as December 24, 2020.

Web links

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