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The Orbital Construction of China Space Station Begins Soon

On February 5th, the Long March 5B Remote-1 carrier rocket arrived at the Wenchang launch site. It will carry a new-generation manned spacecraft test vessel in mid-to-late April to perform its first flight mission. With more powerful launch vehicles, more advanced space station technology, and higher scientific utilization benefits, the orbital construction mission of China Space Station is about to begin, and China's manned spaceflight project in the era of the space station is striding forward.

The Long March 5B Remote-1 carrier rocket which was newly designed for the China Manned Space Station Program, arrived at the Wenchang launch site on February 5th. In addition to the initial samples of the space station core module and the new-generation manned spacecraft test vessel that have arrived in advance, the "three major pieces" have been gathered at the launch site. The Long March 5B Remote-1 carrier rocket will carry a new generation of manned spacecraft test vessels and is scheduled to perform its first flight in mid-to-late-April. This also means that the highly anticipated China Space Station orbital construction mission is about to begin.

 

New large carrier rocket will undertake major launch tasks such as Space Station modules.

According to plan, the Long March 5B Remote-1 carrier rocket will perform two major tasks. One is to participate in training on launch sites, and the other is to fly with the new generation of manned spacecraft test vessels. According to reports, the test vessel did not carry people, and the initial samples of the space station core module did not participate in the launch mission.

Rockets are currently the only means of transport to space for mankind. Building a space station requires particularly powerful carrier rockets. According to relevant experts, the Long March 5B Remote-1, which has recently arrived at the launch site, is a new type of rocket improved and developed on the basis of the Long March 5 carrier rocket. Researchers have newly developed large fairings according to the space station mission requirements, and have adapted the whole body to make it mainly used for launching large spacecraft in low-Earth orbits such as space stations. The total length of the rocket is about 53.7 meters, the core is 5 meters in diameter, and four boosters with a diameter of 3.35 meters are bundled; the fairing is 20.5 meters in length and 5.2 meters in diameter, and uses non-toxic and pollution-free liquid oxygen, liquid hydrogen, and kerosene as propellants. The take-off mass is about 849 tons, and the load capacity to low earth orbit is not less than 22 tons.

One expert introduced that the Long March 5B carrier rocket is a new type of large-scale carrier rocket developed according to serialization, modularization, and combined thinking, and it is also China's first one and a half stage carrier rocket. The large launch vehicle will be mainly used for the launch of large spacecraft in low-Earth orbit, and will undertake major space launch missions such as the China Space Station.

It is reported that the Long March 5 series launch vehicles are scheduled to launch three times this year. The new generation manned spacecraft test vessel will be launched by the Long March 5B launch vehicle, and the Mars probe and Chang'e 5 lunar probe will be launched by the Long March 5 carrier rocket.

 

The space station has designed a complete renewable life support system, which will make astronauts more comfortable in their work and life.

According to experts, the overall configuration of the China Space Station is comprised of three sections, including the "Tianhe" core module, the experimental module I and the experimental module II. The overall configuration is T-shaped.

Among them, the "Tianhe" core capsule has a total length of 16.6 meters, a maximum diameter of 4.2 meters, and a launch mass of 22.5 tons. It is the management and control center of the future space station. "Tianhe" can support three astronauts to stay in orbit for a long time, and to support scientific experiments and technical tryouts in space inside and outside the cabin. It is the largest spacecraft currently developed in China.

According to experts, in order to make the astronauts' long-term life in space more comfortable, the core module has made a great breakthrough in design than in the past. The space for astronauts to work and live is about 50 cubic meters. With the addition of two experimental cabins, the overall volume can reach 110 cubic meters.

Not only is the activity space large, the supply of astronauts on the space station is also better guaranteed. Previously, the highest record for Chinese astronauts in orbit was 33 days. The water and oxygen necessary for the astronauts to survive were sent directly into space by the spacecraft. In order to allow astronauts to stay longer in orbit, the space station has designed a complete renewable life support system. The water vapor exhaled by the astronauts will be recycled in the form of condensed water, and the excreted urine will be recovered and purified, and reused as drinking water and domestic water. The hydrogen produced during the electrolysis of oxygen and the carbon dioxide exhaled by the astronauts will generate oxygen through a chemical reaction, which can also reduce the need for oxygen supply.

The space station's resources are very valuable. After scientific and careful selection, the space station will be equipped with scientific research and experimental facilities related to biology, material science, fundamental physics, microgravity, fluid physics and other categories. The space station will also deploy more than 10 advanced scientific experimental racks, extravehicular load installation platforms and common-orbiting telescopes to provide conditions for space science experiments and solve large-scale space utilization problems.

Experts said that the new generation of manned spacecraft is developed for China's near-Earth space station operation and subsequent manned lunar exploration missions, with a total length of 8.8 meters and a launch mass of 21.6 tons. It has high safety, high reliability, multi-mission and modular design characteristics. The goal is to achieve multiple reusability with carrying 6 astronauts and return capsules at one time. As the new generation of manned spacecraft will take into account both near-Earth orbit missions and deeper space exploration, it will bring greater test to the structure and thermal performance of the spacecraft. The launch mission, which is scheduled to be completed in April, will verify the key technology of the spacecraft, and then the spacecraft will move on to whole system development and functional verification to prepare for future manned flights.

 

There are many challenges in the space station mission, training and first flight are extremely important.

In the 1990s, China ’s manned spaceflight project established a “three-step” development strategy: the first step was to launch a manned spacecraft, build a preliminary supporting experimental manned spacecraft project, and conduct space utilization experiments; the second step was to breakthrough astronaut extravehicular activity technology, rendezvous and docking technology for space vehicles, launching a space laboratory to solve space utilization with a certain scale and short-term man-tending space utilization issues. The third step is to build a space station to solve the problem of large-scale and long-term man-tending space utilization issues.

On July 19, 2019, with the Tiangong-2 space laboratory controlled deorbit and re-entry into the atmosphere, all tasks of the space laboratory phase of China Manned Space Program were successfully completed, and China entered the era of the China Space Station.

To achieve leapfrog development of technology and continuous improvement of scientific application benefits, the mission of the space station is facing many challenges. According to the plan, China Manned Space Program will implement more than 10 consecutive missions in less than three years, complete the construction and operation of a near-Earth manned space station, and breakthrough, master, and develop the on-orbit assembly and construction technology of large-scale complex spacecraft and long-term near Earth manned flight, as well as establish the National Space Laboratory, conduct of large-scale space scientific experiments and technical tryouts, and commercial space utilization.

Experts said that training and first flight are extremely important. According to reports, the launching exercise is a simulation exercise based on the official launch status, but it will not actually execute the final ignition instruction. Through joint training, full-process, full-element, and full-process, simulations of formal launch missions can be performed, and the cooperation between the space station core module and the launch vehicle, launch site, and other systems can be fully verified, and problems can be identified and solved early. The joint training mission involving the Long March 5B Remote-1 carrier rocket is expected to take about 3 months.

At present, it is a special period of epidemic coronavirus prevention and control. Relevant person in charge stated that the entire project will incorporate the prevention and control of epidemic situation into the overall arrangement of joint training tasks, execute scientific decision-making, scientific organization, and scientific management, one by one screening, strict field control, and perfecting risk plans to ensure the joint training mission and the first flight mission be smoothly organized and implemented in accordance with the planned schedule to ensure that the flight missions of the space station proceed smoothly.

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