China unveiled on Tuesday a replica of its first permanently crewed space station, which would replace the international community’s orbiting laboratory and symbolizes the country’s major ambitions beyond Earth.
It is a 17-meter core module. Three astronauts will be permanently stationed in the 60-tonne orbiting lab, which will enable the crew to conduct biological and microgravity research.
Assembly is expected to be completed around 2022 and the station would have a lifespan of around 10 years.
The International Space Station – a collaboration between the United States, Russia, Canada, Europe, and Japan – has been in operation since 1998 and is due to be retired in 2024.
China will then have the only space station in orbit, though it will be much smaller than the ISS which weighs 400 tonnes and is as large as a football pitch.
About the International Space Station (ISS):
The International Space Station (ISS) is a space station, or a habitable artificial satellite, in low Earth orbit. The ISS is now the largest artificial body in orbit.
The ISS consists of pressurized modules, external trusses, solar arrays, and other components. ISS components have been launched by Russian Proton and Soyuz rockets as well as American Space Shuttles.
The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields.
The station is suited for the testing of spacecraft systems and equipment required for missions to the Moon and Mars.
The ISS maintains an orbit with an altitude of between 330 and 435 km by means of reboost maneuvers using the engines of the Zvezda module or visiting spacecraft. It completes 15.54 orbits per day.
ISS is the ninth space station to be inhabited by crews, following the Soviet and later Russian Salyut, Almaz, and Mir stations as well as Skylab from the US.
The ISS programme is a joint project among five participating space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA, and CSA.
The ownership and use of the space station are established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements. The station is divided into two sections, the Russian Orbital Segment (ROS) and the United States Orbital Segment (USOS), which is shared by many nations.