The central module for China's proposed orbital space station has passed a flight approval examination. It will launch in the coming months, kicking off a whirlwind of major missions for the region.

Endeavour Orbits Earth Docked To International Space Station
(Photo : Paolo Nespoli - ESA/NASA via Getty Images)
IN SPACE - MAY 23: In this handout image provided by the European Space Agency (ESA) and NASA, the International Space Station and the docked space shuttle Endeavour orbit Earth during Endeavour's final sortie on May 23, 2011 in Space. Italian astronaut Paolo Nespoli captured the first-ever images of an orbiter docked to the International Space Station from the viewpoint of a departing vessel as he returned to Earth in a Soyuz capsule.

China Manned Space, the world's human spaceflight agency, announced on January 14 as the country prepares to begin work on its own three-module space station.

The Tianhe central module, which means "harmony of the heavens," will be the primary living quarters for three-person crews visiting for up to six months.

Following the completion of the space station and the establishment of a national space laboratory, a number of subsequent flight missions will be carried out as planned.

Can the Chinese Space Station Outlast the International Space Station?

According to, China's latest space station is planned to last at least 15 years. Meaning, it could outlast the 26-year-old International Space Station (ISS). The ISS's life is running out. Once it is decommissioned - perhaps in 2028 - China's first orbital station will take over low-Earth orbit (LEO).

Like the International Space Station, the said space station would allow for stays of up to six months until completed.

How Big Is China's Space Station?

ISS usually holds up to six astronauts on six-month missions, while bigger crews have remained there on occasion. According to NASA, the ISS has been likened to a six-bedroom house with six sleeping quarters, two bedrooms, and even a gym.

Like the International Space Station, China's central module would allow other parts and science instruments to be launched and added at a later date. However, the space station would be much smaller than the ISS, with a mass of around one-fifth that of the latter.

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China has also deployed two smaller research space stations to test rendezvous, docking, and life support systems.

Is China Preparing Astronauts for Crewed Flights to the International Space Station?

ABC News said that China is preparing astronauts for four crewed missions this year as the nation works to complete the first permanent orbiting space station.

The mission will be the first of 11 planned for the next two years to complete the station's construction by the end of 2022. Two more modules and four Tianzhou cargo supply missions and four Shenzhou crewed missions will be launched later.

CNSA listed 12 astronauts preparing for the crewed missions, including veterans of previous Shenzhou trips, rookies, and women. Still, it was unclear whether any other candidates were chosen.

The core module, which has docking ports to enable the addition of science modules launched later, will reportedly house up to three crew members at a time.

Is China Working on a New Commercial Rocket As Well?

According to the South China Morning Post, China will deploy a new solid-fuel rocket for the commercial market next year that will be capable of transporting 20 satellites at a time.

The Jielong-3, or Smart Dragon-3, can run at a reasonable cost per mass of US$10,000 per kilogram, according to Jiang Jie, a rocket scientist with the rocket's developer, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). In comparison, the Jielong-1, which made its first flight in 2019, was rated at US$30,000 per kilogram.

According to the manufacturer, the small-lift launch vehicle would be capable of carrying up to 1.5 tons, or 20 satellites, into sun-synchronous orbit, or an altitude of around 500 kilometers.

Jiang said the Jielong-3 would be highly successful because it is cost-effective, high-performing, dependable, adaptable, and fast preparation.

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