China on Thursday unveiled an unmanned unit that will become a permanent space station for three crew, which is scheduled to be completed by the end of 2022, state media reported.
Named “Tianhe” or “Harmony of the Heavens”, the module was launched by China’s largest carrier rocket Long on March 5, 1123 local time (0323 GMT) from the Wenchang Space Launch Center on the South Island. Of Hainan.
Minutes after launch, the exhibition opened to expose Tianhe on the main stage of the rocket, with inscriptions for “China Mont Space” engraved on its exterior. Soon, it split from the rocket, which orbited a week before it fell to Earth, and a few minutes after that, opened its solar system to provide a stable source of energy.
Tianhe is one of three key components of being China’s first self-developed space station, competing with the International Space Station (ISS), the only station in service.
The ISS is supported by the United States, Russia, Europe, Japan and Canada. The United States has banned China from participating.
“(Tianhe) is an important pilot project in building a powerful nation in technology and space,” state media quoted President Xi Jinping as saying in a congratulatory speech.
Tianhe builds key residences for three crew at the Chinese space station, which will have a lifespan of at least 10 years.
10 spacecraft, 4 manned spacecraft
The Tianhe launch was the first of 11 passengers required to complete the space station orbiting the Earth at an altitude of 340 to 450 kilometers.
In later missions, China launches the other two main modules, the four-man spacecraft and the four cargo spacecraft.
Work on the space station project began a decade ago with the Tiangong-1 space laboratory in 2011 and then the Tiangong-2 in 2016.
Both helped China test the project’s space rendezvous and docking capabilities.
China aims to become a major space power by 2030. It has augmented its space program with visits to the moon, an unexplored exploration of Mars and the construction of its own space station.
In contrast, the fate of the aging ISS – in orbit for more than two decades – remains uncertain.
The project expires in 2024, excluding funding from its partners. Russia said this month that it would withdraw from the plan from 2025.
Russia is deepening ties with China in space as tensions with Washington escalate.
Moscow has slandered the US-led Artemis lunar exploration program and instead chose to join Beijing in setting up a lunar research station in the coming years.