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China launches “Tianhe” module for its space station


China launched an unmanned module containing what will become living quarters for three crew on a permanent space station that it plans to complete by the end of 2022.


GS-III: Science and Technology (Space technology, Developments in Science and Technology), Prelims

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. About China’s Tiangong Space Station
  2. About Tianhe

About China’s Tiangong Space Station

  • The Tiangong Space Station or Chinese large modular space station is a planned space station to be placed in low Earth orbit between 340 and 450 km above the surface.
  • The Chinese Space Station will be roughly one-fifth the mass of the International Space Station and about the size of the decommissioned Russian Mir space station.
  • Operations will be controlled from the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center in China.
  • The Tiangong-3 will be a third generation, modular space station.
China plans a space station | Space station, Cosmos space, Space engineers

Understanding the Generations of space stations

  • First generation space stations, such as early Salyut, Almaz, and Skylab, were single piece stations and not designed for resupply.
  • Second generation Salyut 6 and 7, and Tiangong 1 and 2 stations, are designed for mid-mission resupply.
  • Third generation stations such as Mir, the International Space Station, are modular space stations, assembled on-orbit from pieces launched separately. Modularised design methods can greatly improve reliability, reduce costs, shorten development cycle, and meet diversified task requirements.

About Tianhe

  • The module, named “Tianhe”, or “Harmony of the Heavens”, was launched on the Long March 5B, China’s largest carrier rocket from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre on the southern island of Hainan.
  • Tianhe is one of three main components of what would be China’s first self-developed space station, rivalling the only other station in service – the International Space Station (ISS).
  • Tianhe forms the main living quarters for three crew members in the Chinese space station, which will have a life span of at least 10 years.
  • The Tianhe launch was the first of 11 missions needed to complete the space station, which will orbit Earth at an altitude of 340 to 450 km (211-280 miles).
  • In the later missions, China will launch the two other core modules, four manned spacecraft and four cargo spacecraft.
  • Work on the space station programme began a decade ago with the launch of a space lab Tiangong-1 in 2011, and later, Tiangong-2 in 2016.

Click Here to learn what are Space Stations and to read about ISRO’s space station ambitions

-Source: The Hindu

November 2023