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Tuesday, 1 November 2011

China's space station program


China has a long-term goal for its space exploration program. And the launch of the Shenzhen 8 Space Shuttle is one of the missions that will be accomplished during the program’s undertaking.

According to the China National Space Administration or CNSA, China’s Space Program consists of three stages.
China National Space Administration
Phase 1 is the launch of a manned space shuttle that will execute various space experiments. The Shenzhou 5 and 6 have completed this stage’s mission.

The launch of a space laboratory marks Phase 2 of the program. One of the missions during this stage will be the docking of a manned space shuttle and space lab, which is a prototype of China’s ultimate space station to carry out experiments.

Shenzhou 7 was the third human spaceflight, which included the first Chinese extra-vehicular activity or EVA, a milestone during this phase. The launch of the Tiangong Space Lab and Shenzhou 8 to 10 Space Shuttles is expected to complete the rest of the second phase missions, which paves the way for China’s ultimate goal of constructing a space station. Its operation is part of Phase 3, which will take place in the future.

Tiangong-1 is the first Chinese space laboratory module. It is intended as an experimental testbed to develop rendezvous and docking capabilities needed to support a larger space station complex. Tiangong-1 is expected to be visited by three Shenzhou missions during its operational lifetime: the unmanned Shenzhou 8 in 2011, and the manned Shenzhou 9 and 10 in 2012.

After spending approximately two years in orbit, Tiangong-1 will return to earth in 2013. It will be replaced over the following decade by the larger Tiangong-2 and Tiangong-3 modules, which will conduct more sophisticated space experiments and probes. Tiangong 2 will fulfill various experiments, introduce new technologies, and possibly develop space medicine. The full-size, multi-module Tiangong 3 space station will have astronauts stationed inside. The station will be supplied by cargo shuttles.

CNSA says the Tiangong 3, China’s first full-size space station, will be a realistic and multi-functional station to perform experiments, production, probing and storing, which they believe will produce fruitful results. For example, the space station will have the ability to develop new types of vegetables and fruits or produce new materials in space. China has set a goal of having its space station to be in place by 2020.