Thursday morning, May 29, 1400 at 6:53 Tehran time, the main part of the Chinese space station with a long March rocket successfully in Earth orbit it placed. The 16-meter module, called Tianhe, is the first piece of the space station that China plans to complete next year.
If all goes according to plan, the Chinese space agency will send one shipment to the station next month and three astronauts in the next two months.
China Space Agency has been trying to build its Tiangong space station for the past ten years. In 2011, it sent the first prototype of the space laboratory, Tiangong 1, into Earth orbit to acquire the skills needed to build a larger space station in space.
A year after the launch of the Tiangong 1, three astronauts with Shenzhou 9 went to the lab and stayed there for two weeks. In 2012, another astronaut stayed in the lab for another two weeks on the Shenzhou 10 mission. After these two missions, China did not send any more manned missions to the lab, but in 2016 it was able to put Tiangong 2, the second test version of the mission into orbit, and the following month sent three Shenzo 11 astronauts to the new station. Sent that they stayed there for a month.
Neither of these two stations are currently in orbit. Tiangong 1 went out of orbit in 2018 without the control of the Chinese Space Agency and crashed into the Earth’s atmosphere over the South Pacific. While in a controlled flight, Tiangong 2 crashed into Earth in 2019.
China’s space station has a mass of 20 percent, or 460 tons, more than the International Space Station, and while the International Space Station can carry six or seven passengers at a time, Tiangong can only accommodate three astronauts. But China’s goal is to conduct more tests in Tiangong. The station has 14 indoor laboratories and 50 external junctions for spatial data collection.
China has so far designed 100 tests for the space station, nine of which will be selected by next year. It is interesting to note that none of these experiments are performed with Chinese astronauts and will be performed by astronauts of different nationalities. However, China has not included American astronauts on its list. US law prohibits NASA and the White House Office of Science and Technology from cooperating with China, making China the International Space Station’s biggest competitor to the International Space Station.