Inside the new space station of China

China today drew the world's attention by announcing that the China Space Station (CSS), a new orbital station for the 2020s, will be open for international cooperation and experiments by researchers from around the world. Along with this announcement, China also released an often overlooked manual detailing the architecture and operation of CSS.

Announcement – Continue reading below

Some of the content has been leaked, but the nearly 30-page document contains some of the best information available on how CSS will look and how it will work. In it, the Chinese space agency says that the station "will become the main scientific and technological laboratory in low Earth orbit."

Here is a look inside the construction and operation of the CSS, which can be built by 2022. [19659005] China First

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To begin with, the CSS will be smaller than the Space Station International. The document puts the total mbad of CSS at around 66 tons, "and can reach approximately 100 tons when it is docked with several manned spacecraft and cargo vehicles." It will have space for three astronauts, with the capacity to reach six residents. In comparison, the ISS has a mbad of 460 tons and is considered to have full staff for six people.

The Chinese space station will be located at an altitude almost identical to the ISS, about 250 miles high. That's not surprising given the advantages of low Earth orbit, which include easier replenishment deliveries of the planet and the protection of the Earth's magnetic field against cosmic radiation.

However, the station in China will have a different inclination. Inclination means the angle where a spatial object measured against the equator resides, and is one of the factors that determines the shape of the orbit of any satellite. The tilt also says something about the way a space station will run. As a National Research Council document states:

"In practice, the orbital inclination of a space station can not be smaller than the latitude of the northernmost launching facility used to support the badembly or logistics of the station For a given launch site, the amount of payload that can be delivered to a space station decreases as the orbital inclination increases.The maximum capacity of the launch vehicle is achieved when the orbital inclination of the space station is the Same as launch site. "

The rocket carrying the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft takes off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on October 17, 2016 in Jiuquan, China.

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Announcement – Continue reading below

Announcement – Continue reading below

ISS sits at an inclination of 51.6 degrees, the lowest tilt the Russians can reach with their Soyuz and Progress spaceship. The easier the insertion is, the more cargo the spacecraft can bring to orbit.

The CSS will have an orbital inclination of approximately 41 degrees. This coincides with the latitude of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, the Chinese spaceport that will deliver crew and cargo aboard the Long March CZ-2F launch system. Another Chinese spaceport in Wenchang will also launch rockets at CSS. Although it is not at an ideal latitude, the Wenchang spaceport is located on the coast and can process loads delivered by sea-going ships. In other words, CSS will be optimized for launches from Chinese space ports, while its tilt would make life difficult for US and European launch providers.

A big T in space

Here's another difference with the ISS. The American method for building the International Space Station involved spacewalks to connect cables and pipes. That will not happen with CSS. Using a method used by the Russian space program, CSS modules will be fully badembled when they reach orbit.

The three components of the CSS main module are horizontally symmetric, but the station will have a T shape. The main CSS module will be called Tianhe or "Harmony of the Skies". This is where they will dock Shenzhou and Tianzhou . (Excuse Boeing and SpaceX: your crew delivery vehicles probably will not find a home here). From within the Command Module, CSS residents will operate two robotic arms to grab spaceships and payloads. "With the front of the CM pointing in the direction of flight, the CM is used to control and manage the badembly of the Space Station and provide accommodation and work areas for astronauts," the document says.

Announcement – Continue Reading Below

The main CSS module will be called Tianhe, or "Harmony of the Heavens".

Forming the remainder of the T-shape are two Experiment Modules, used to support the investigation of space science. They also seem to have space for the crew quarters when the season is complete. "The EMI has the ability to manage and control the Space Station and act as a backup for some of the key functions of the CM platform," the document says. "It is the main shelter and emergency shelter for astronauts and can support space experiments on board and outboard." The crew can access the space through an air lock, with those robotic arms available to help with external experiments and any other extravehicular activity.

Science Mission

The manual lists a series of research priorities, all of which are familiar paths of space research. These include the study of the effects of life in space, microfluidics, the science of materials, astronomy and the physics of microgravity. An interesting test chamber is dedicated to the "science of combustion" that will test new space engines.

Regarding the international cooperation that China proclaimed this week, the document makes it clear that China will approve any experiment that is incorporated:

"International partners can only propose experimental schemes as experimental samples, experimental or experimental units design independently or in cooperation with the China Manned Space Agency and conduct experiments using the experimental facilities or payloads already developed by China or by adding extra relevant facilities. "

The Chinese propose to have a partner for the CSS that floats by This "Optical Module System" will launch into orbit by itself and travel along the same orbit as CSS. "It will support multicolored photometry, uninterrupted spectrum surveying and Earth observation with multifunctional optical capabilities," "the manual says." If necessary, it can be coupled with CSS for refueling, equipment maintenance, the payload equipment update and other enance activities. "


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