China set to launch bigger space programme

Jul 01, 2012 by Boris Cambreleng
This photo of the giant screen at the Jiuquan Space Centre shows the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft preparing to link with the Tiangong-1 module on June 24. China will deploy bigger spacecraft for longer missions following the success of its Shenzhou-9 voyage, allowing it to build a manned space station and potentially put a man on the moon, experts said.

China will deploy bigger spacecraft for longer missions following the success of its Shenzhou-9 voyage, allowing it to build a manned space station and potentially put a man on the moon, experts said.

The 13-day voyage of Shenzhou-9, which returned to Earth on Friday, was China's longest-ever and included the nation's first woman astronaut among its three crew members.

In another first for China's 20-year programme, which has cost more than $6 billion, the crew also achieved the country's first-ever manual docking with an , the Tiangong-1, a high-speed and high-risk .

In the next mission that will occur at the end of this year or in 2013, Shenzhou-10's astronauts will link up with Tiangong-1 in a similar flight, said Morris Jones, an Australian space expert focusing on China's programme.

The mission will be the last docking with the Tiangong-1, which was put into orbit in September last year.

Morris said no more would go on Tiangong-1 after the next mission. Then, in a few years, China will launch a more sophisticated version, the Tiangong-2.

When that comes into play, the dimensions of China's space programme will grow significantly, said Isabelle Sourbes-Verger, a specialist on China's space programme at France's National Centre for Scientific Research.

She said future vehicles would allow for larger space modules, longer missions and more powerful launch vehicles,

This photo of the giant screen at the Jiuquan Space Centre shows Chinese astronauts Liu Wang (C), Jing Haipeng (L) and Liu Yang in the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft as it prepares to link with the Tiangong-1 module on June 24. The crew achieved the country's first-ever manual docking with an orbital module, the Tiangong-1, a high-speed and high-risk manoeuvre.

"Longer periods in space -- one to three months -- cannot take place unless there is a vehicle bigger than the 8.5 tonne Tiangong-1, which also did not appear to have a resupply system," she told AFP.

"Tiangong-1... will be followed by two other versions with more powerful 'life support' systems... and will possibly be capable of docking with a second vehicle."

China is also developing the Long March 5, a next-generation that will be needed if the nation hopes to place a bigger space station in orbit, said Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor at the US Naval War College.

"Launching that space station... depends on the successful development of a new heavy launch vehicle, the Long March 5," she told AFP.

"I would expect to see this large space station in within the next 10 years -- which could make it the de facto replacement for the now orbiting International Space Station (ISS)," said Johnson-Freese.

She was referring to the life expectancy of the ISS -- run by the American, Russian, Japanese, European and Canadian space agencies -- which is likely to function only to around 2020.

China has never been invited to join the ISS.

Sourbes-Verger said further advances in China's space station programme would "guarantee" that the country plays a major role should any eventual cooperation with the ISS take place.

To realise its ambitions beyond 2020, which may include sending a man to the moon, China has also been advancing its "Chang'e" exploration programme. This entails satellite launches to explore the lunar surface.

"Likely within the next five to eight years China will also make a decision as to whether to pursue a human lunar mission," Johnson-Freese said.

Meanwhile the United States, after retiring its space shuttle fleet, is also developing a new rocket and technologies to place a man on an asteroid or on Mars, she said.

"Both countries are moving forward, but not in a competitive path," she said.

China's space programme remains far behind the Americans. This was highlighted by the fact that the manual space docking trumpeted by the Chinese on the Shenzhou-9 mission was done by the Americans in the 1960s.

"If there is a space race going on, I think it is in Asia," Johnson-Freese said, pointing out that India had also set ambitious goals.

Explore further: Cassini sees sunny seas on Titan

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

China to launch manned spacecraft in June

Jun 09, 2012

China will launch a spacecraft this month to conduct its first manned space docking, state media said Saturday, the latest step in a plan aimed at giving the country a permanent space station by 2020.

China to attempt first space rendezvous

Apr 29, 2011

China will attempt its first space docking between two unmanned vehicles this year, the first step in efforts to build a Chinese space station, a senior official said Friday.

China may send first woman into space

Oct 31, 2011

China may send its first woman into space next year as part of a programme to build a space station by 2020, the official Xinhua news agency said Monday.

Recommended for you

China completes first mission to moon and back

1 hour ago

China completed its first return mission to the moon early Saturday with the successful re-entry and landing of an unmanned probe, state media reported, in the latest step forward for Beijing's ambitious ...

Tracking a gigantic sunspot across the Sun

1 hour ago

An active region on the sun – an area of intense and complex magnetic fields – rotated into view on Oct. 18, 2014. Labeled AR 12192, it soon grew into the largest such region in 24 years, and fired off ...

Cassini sees sunny seas on Titan

Oct 30, 2014

(Phys.org) —As it soared past Saturn's large moon Titan recently, NASA's Cassini spacecraft caught a glimpse of bright sunlight reflecting off hydrocarbon seas.

User comments : 3

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Torbjorn_Larsson_OM
3 / 5 (2) Jul 01, 2012
I have seen claims that Tiangong-1 type crafts could be the cargo supply ship to later stations.

"the life expectancy of the ISS ... is likely to function only to around 2020."

That is predicted by the ~ 30 year average before puncture of one of the module shields by early estimates of impact statistics in LEO, I believe. And of course some people would like to retire the yearly expense rather than utilize it.

I have seen claims that the russians plan to separate their part and remake it into a longer lived national station, FWIW.
Vendicar_Decarian
not rated yet Jul 02, 2012
It is a refreshing change to see a nation taking it's manned space program seriously and progressing competently, unlike the incompetent American program and the stagnant Russian program.

The universe belongs to the competent and the bold.

America hasn't had a competent or bold manned space program since Apollo.

"I would expect to see this large space station in orbit within the next 10 years -- which could make it the de facto replacement for the now orbiting International Space Station (ISS)," said Johnson-Freese." - Article
HTK
1 / 5 (1) Jul 02, 2012
can't have selfish greedy unethical chinese have such advances.

these animals let their babies run over by cars and watch without emotion.

these animals just shoot at protesters 10s of thousands of them.

when I say these animals, I mean the animal kingdom.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.