China has launched the first module of a new, proprietary space station. Around 05:30 the Tianhe (‘heavenly harmony’) departed from an island off the South China coast. After its launch, employees of the Chinese space agency CNSA congratulated each other at the flight center.
The launch looked like this:
The launched module is the 22 ton core module that provides electricity and propulsion, providing shelter for three Taikonauts. The Chinese station is somewhat like the ISS, but is much smaller, says astronomer Marc Klein Wolt in the CCEit Radio 1 News. “I believe it‘s a quarter of the ISS.”
Within less than two years after this morning’s launch, ten flights have to take off with important cargo on board: two scientific modules, four freighters and four manned Shenzhou capsules. The first astronauts arrive in June.
Important for the future
According to Klein Wolt, the launch of the Tianhe is important for research into the effects of space travel on the body, especially with a view to the future. The station gives China experience with long space flights in low Earth orbit, and which is needed for planned manned lunar flights in the 1930s.
“ China has huge plans in space travel, including a space station,” says De Klein Wolt. “If you can do this, then you can build something on the moon and put people there. So this is a very good exercise.”
In addition, a space station gives prestige at home and abroad. “This is a point for China, if you think of it as a competition,” says the astronomer. “It also encourages other countries to develop technology even faster. That‘s a contest you’d like to win.”
By the end of next year, the Chinese space station should be finished. That goal was set many years ago, but was compromised by problems with the new Lange Mars 5 launcher.