Earlier this week, China launched the core module for its new space station. The module is called Tianhe, which translates to Harmony of the Heavens. It launched on Wednesday, April 28th, using a Long March-5B Y2 rocket from a launch site in the Chinese Hainan Province.
Tianhe is the very first module of a space station that, when completed, will be significantly smaller than the ISS in orbit today. The module itself is the largest spacecraft China has ever developed, measuring 54.4 feet long, 13.8 feet wide at its widest point, and a massive 22.5 tons at liftoff. China is now looking at an ambitious plan to complete its space station with help from partner countries and will need ten launches to put all the components for the space station into orbit.
The US is not one of the partner nations working with China on its space station. China wasn’t allowed to participate in the International Space Station from the outset in part over fears that the nation would conduct espionage and steal technological secrets from partner nations. The ten additional launches that China will perform will happen between 2021 and 2022.
The launches will include two more modules put into orbit, four crew missions, and four cargo vessel flights. China will rely on three different types of Long March rockets to propel the ten missions into the heavens.
Officials at the China Academy of Space Technology have previously stated that the space station will support six astronauts at the same time. Chinese officials say that a sustained president in Earth orbit will allow the country to carry out research and conduct other services. The launch and deployment of the core module for the space station was hailed as a complete success by Chinese authorities.