Picture source: NASA website
The International Space Station (ISS) is a massive modular space station which orbits earth at a speed of almost 8 kilometers per second. The International Space Station has a capacity of seven astronauts and is used to conduct numerous experiments. It was constructed through a collaboration by multiple space agencies such as NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Agency), ESA (European Space Agency), Roscosmos (Russian space agency), JAXA (Japanese space agency) and CSA (Canadian space agency). However, China was barred from sending astronauts to the ISS by American law makers due to national security concerns.
China has since then stepped up and created its own space station. The Tiangong, which translates to “heavens palace”, will be up and running by 2022. The Tiangong space station was constructed exclusively by China, and this was mainly driven by the 2011 ban that US law makers imposed on Chinese astronauts from operating in the ISS.
China was the third nation to launch an astronaut into space after the US and Russia, just a decade later they successfully launched two test modules of the Tiangong which are the basis of the design. It is modular because each separate module links up together to create the space station, the ISS currently has 16 modules, Tiangong will initially only consist of 3 modules and is quarter of the size of the ISS.
However, the ISS is more than 20 years old, and China has stated that the Tiangong will be equipped with the latest technology including solar panels that will help power the space station. Zhou Jianping chief designer of the Tiangong states “Our energy system can convert more than 30% [of the solar energy], which is much higher than what we previously saw in other space stations”. China has also equipped its space station with a space telescope called Xuntian which translates to “heavenly cruiser” and will orbit parallel to the space station. The Xuntian is like the Hubble Space Telescope, which was launched by NASA and ESA, but the Xuntian has an enormous camera onboard which can look up to 300 times the field of view of the Hubble Space Telescope.
- picture taken by the Hubble Space Telescope Picture source: NASA website
China has already chosen nine projects to conduct on their new space station and has shown that they can turn their space program into an aerospace superpower. However, they will have competition, as the ISS is nearing retirement, NASA is currently leading a plan to construct a space station which will function like the ISS but orbiting the moon, and Russia have indicated that they could launch their own space station by 2030.
August 27th | 11:00 AM