The Tiangong Space Station: 3 Three Things You Didn’t Know About It
Approximately ten months ago ( in mid-September of 2016 ), China launched its 2nd-ever fully-fledged space lab, inspired by the ISS. The scientific hub was part of the Asian nation’s multifaceted plan that seeks to assemble a fully functional and well-staffed national space program by the early years of 2020. The space laboratory, christened ‘Tiangong-2’ – Mandarin for “Heavenly Palace” is one of the leading elite scientific research hubs in mainland China. Here are some of the little-known facts of this 9.5-ton space laboratory:
It is not Designed or Planned to be a Permanent Orbital Modular Station
The Tiangong-2 is set to be launched into orbit by the end of 2022. This means several things. For starters, China stands to be potentially the only nation on earth with a space presence after the US-led international space program goes out of the service in the next 5 to 10 years. Nonetheless, the current plans point to the fact that Tiangong-2 is not designed or meant to be a permanent orbital space station. Rather, its architectural blueprint has been optimized for it to act as a valuable testbed for cutting-edge space technology. The fact that it will be a fully-manned station indicates the likelihood of being in China’s central modular space program. At the moment, Tiangong-2 maintains an orbital distance of approximately 244 miles – the same height that it is China’s space station is expected to operate from.
It has already Docked with the Country’s First Automated Spacecraft
Earlier this year, on April 17th, 2016, the space laboratory docked with China’s pioneering automated spacecraft, named Tianzhou-1. This not only marked an important milestone in the country’s space program but also shed new light on the efforts that man has continually put towards automated space exploration. Already, it is the public domain that the Tiangong-2 is a replacement prototype of the elite Tiangong-1 that was initially launched back in September 2011. Now, astronauts have reported been onto the newly launched space lab and conducted various technical and scientific experiments that revolve around human-machine collaboration, weightlessness, in-orbit maintenance, and satellite photography.
It’s Part of China’s Ambitious Plan to Dominate the Space Waves by 2030
The full effect and impact of the Tiangong-2 are expected to be felt in mid-2020 when the country will be scaling up an ambitious project aimed towards establishing a permanent space presence. And considering that this is coincidentally around the same time when the United States will be rolling out the International Space Station ( ISS ) from orbit, it would mean that the 9.5-ton sophisticated space lab could be the only man-made object in the earth’s orbit come 2025. Therefore, although at the moment it is designed to play host to a variety of space experiments, it still represents a significant phase in China’s national space program.
Launched in late 2016, the newly-unveiled Tiangong-2 was a significant step for China’s space missions. Now, almost a year down the line, the space lab’s pioneering modules are expected to be in orbit by early 2018. Already, Chinese astronauts have conducted a successful 32-day mission aboard the laboratory – one of the country’s longest and most expensive crewed mission. There’s no denying that the Tiangong-2 is a big step towards the advancement of space technology.