China's space station slated for 2022 boasting advanced technologies
By Ning Hong
People celebrate the successful launch of the core module of China's space station at the main control hall of Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site. /CGTN

People celebrate the successful launch of the core module of China's space station at the main control hall of Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site. /CGTN

China successfully launched the core module of its space station at 11:23 a.m. Thursday in Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site.

As the Tianhe core module successfully docked into orbit, China's space exploration enters a new era.

Huang Wenqiang, an engineer from the launch site expressed his exhilaration, saying "I'm very proud to be part of the Tianhe mission. Our nation is powerful and awesome."

The Tianhe core module can support three astronauts in orbit for three to six months.

The upcoming mission includes a Tianzhou cargo ship, which brings the supplies, and a Shenzhou manned spacecraft, which will send three astronauts into space in June.

Hao Chun, director of China Manned Space Engineering Office, outlined the roadmap of China's space station.

"By the end of next year, our country's space station will be completed in-orbit construction and enter stage of operation and application. The designed life of the space station in orbit is no less than 10 years. Through the maintenance of the astronauts in orbit and the replacement of some equipment loads, the life of the space station can be extended for a long time."

China's space station has adopted some key technologies. It's equipped with three robotic arms. Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China's Manned Space Engineering Program, said these robotic arms will help the construction.

"For example, if our experimental module is docked with the core cabin, we need to transfer it to the docking position. We have two types of robotic arms. One is called a transposition mechanism which is actually a robotic arm."

"In addition, we also have a more powerful robot arm with seven degrees of freedom, which can also accomplish this task. The space station actually has three robotic arms, and the third one can perform finer operations," he continued. 

"There is also a very important feature," said Zhou. "We can combine the large and small robotic arms to form a combined arm, which has a working radius of up to 15 meters."

Zhou added that the space station's energy system is highly efficient. 

"Our energy system, our photo-voltaic system has a photoelectric conversion efficiency of more than 30 percent, which is of course much more efficient than the previously built [space station]. The power supply capacity per unit quality should be much higher than that of other space stations."

It's even equipped with ion propulsion system.

"Its characteristic is that its specific impulse is very high. The specific impulse is the total impulse you get by consuming a unit of propellant. Electric propulsion is 1,000, 1,500, 1,600 or even higher. So the ion propulsion consumes less propellant and the specific impulse is five times higher than the normal temperature propellants," Zhou said.

China is planning to complete the construction of its space station with 11 intensive launches in 20 months by the end of 2022. This involves another two lab modules and four manned missions.

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