China plans space station completion, many launches in 2022

China has recommitted itself to completing its orbiting space station by the end of the year and says it is planning more than 40 launches for 2022, putting it roughly level with the United States

Via AP news wire
Thursday 06 January 2022 07:21
China Space
China Space

China has recommitted itself to completing its orbiting space station by the end of the year and says it is planning more than 40 launches for 2022, putting it roughly level with the United States

Launches would include those of two Shenzhou crewed missions, two Tianzhou cargo spacecraft and the station’s additional two modules, the official Xinhua News Agency reported Thursday, citing a recent announcement by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation known as CASC.

Named Mengtian and Wentian, the science modules will join the Tianhe core module that is currently home to a three-person crew.

The launch schedule shows how China’s traditionally cautious program is increasing the cadence of its missions as it seeks to take a leading role in space exploration.

The U.S. expects around the same number of launches this year, after the pace slowed in 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Supply chains for crucial items such as computer chips were disrupted and liquid oxygen used as rocket fuel had to be diverted to hospitals to save patients.

Among the most anticipated is the launch expected around March of the Space Launch System — a 1,010-meter- (332-foot-) tall rocket slated for future lunar missions.

China’s military-run space program was barred from the International Space Station mainly due to U.S. objections.

Working largely on its own, China has pushed ahead with its Tiangong space station program, building and then abandoning two experimental stations before embarking on the latest iteration.

The current six-month mission Shenzhou-13 by the crew aboard Tianhe is China’s longest since it first put a human in space in 2003, becoming only the third country to do so after Russia and the U.S.

The crew has conducted a pair of spacewalks — including the first by a Chinese female astronaut — and carried out tests alongside the station’s robotic service arm, which on Thursday successfully undocked then redocked the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft for the first time.

The three are the second crew on the permanent station, which upon completion will weigh about 66 tons, about a quarter the size of the ISS, which launched its first module in 1998 and weighs around 450 tons.

China has also chalked up success with un-crewed missions, and its lunar exploration program generated media buzz last year when its Yutu 2 rover sent back pictures of what was described by some as a “mystery hut" but was most likely only a rock of some sort.

The rover is the first to be placed on the little-explored far side of the moon. China’s Chang’e 5 probe returned lunar rocks to Earth for the first time since the 1970s in December 2000 and another Chinese rover is searching for evidence of life on Mars.

The program has also drawn controversy. In October, China’s Foreign Ministry brushed off a report that China had tested a hypersonic missile two months earlier, saying it had merely tested whether a new spacecraft could be reused.

China is also reportedly developing a highly secretive space plane.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in