The International Space Station (ISS) isn’t as international as it might sound. China isn’t allowed on it. What’s more, the US made sure China is banned from receiving space cooperation, so China can’t receive help from the other space agencies. National security reasons were invoked, and who knows if it isn’t for the best?
But China doesn’t give up and is working on completing its own space station by 2022. With a mass between 80 and 100 tons, the Chinese large modular space station will be just one-fifth of the ISS’s mass. It won’t be a large as the ISS, but only time will tell if this will remain to be the case. And what banning it now will mean to China in the future.
We might have a new Chinese space station up and running in 2022
A recent launch test proved to be a success. A crewless spacecraft and return capsule inspired on the former Soviet Union’s Soyuz model completed the task of launching, separating the capsule, and entering the orbit. The next step is to send a human-crewed mission, that will eventually allow China to send four crewed space missions to its space station. Each mission will fly six men up there.
This is the third phase of Tiangong, the Heavenly Palace that the People’s Republic of China will build in Earth’s low orbit as their own space station. It will be similar to Mir, the former Russian space station. Initially, Tiangong was scheduled to be completed by 2020. At that time, the International Space Station was scheduled to be retired.
China’s previous attempts to build a space station both failed. Tiangong-1 burned up at the reentrance in the atmosphere on April 2, 2018. Tiangong-2 station burned up over the South Pacific Ocean during a controlled re-entry on July 19, 2019. This new bigger Chinese space station seems to have bigger chances to succeed.