2021 is a big year for spaceflight in China, as the country begins the construction of a new space station! Over the next 2 years, the station will be gradually put together. Then, it will be transformed into a scientific outpost for Chinese astronauts. The core module, Tianhe 1, launches into orbit within the next few months. The rest of the station will then be built out from the core. Other modules and astronaut crews launch aboard the 11 missions scheduled for the construction.
China is very much a global superpower in the world of spaceflight. They develop their own rockets and launch missions from Chinese spaceports. Last December, they successfully returned lunar samples to Earth aboard the Chang’e mission for the first time since 1976. Recently, China has been testing the components and procedures needed for a space station, including the Shenzhou human transport vehicle. Unlike the International Space Station, whose operation depends on technology from all across the world, China hope to build and maintain their station from within their own country. The completed station will be about 1/6 the size of the ISS.
The Tianhe 1 core module launchs aboard a Long March 5B rocket. This is a part of China’s Long March 5 rocket family and is designed specifically to launch heavy loads into orbit. The testing and manufacture of both the module and the rocket have been completed, so it won’t be long before Tianhe 1 is in our skies!
The last time any Chinese astronauts were in space was in 2016, when a crew spent time on the second of their prototype space labs, Tiangong 2. Keep up to date with Chinese rocket launches (and many more) with our Launch Schedule.