- Parabolic Arc
- June 2, 2023
China Launches Core Module of First Permanent Space Station
by Douglas Messier
The International Space Station (ISS) is no longer the only human outpost in Earth orbit.
China successfully launched the Tianhe core module core module of its first permanent space station aboard a Long March 5B rocket from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on Thursday.
The three-section Tianhe module includes living quarters for the crew as well as the station’s power, propulsion, life support, guidance, navigation and orientation control. There is also a docking hub that includes ports for visiting vehicles and additional modules.
Tianhe is 16.6 meters long with a diameter of 4.2 meters and a launch weight of 22,000 kg. It is longer than the core module of the Soviet Union’s Mir space station, which had a length of 13.13 meters, a diameter of 4.15 meters and a weight of 22,400 kg.
Launch of the core module will begin a busy two-year period that will see additional modules attached to Tianhe and the launch of multiple Shenzhou crew vehicles and Tianzhou cargo ships.
Spaceflight Now‘s launch calendar indicates that the Tianzhou-2 cargo ship aboard a Long March 7 rocket in May. The booster for the flight recently arrived at Wenchang.
The first crew to occupy the new station will likely be launched in June aboard the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft. A Long March 2F will launch the astronauts to the station.
Later crew flights will fly aboard China’s next-generation crewed spacecraft, which will be capable of carrying six or seven astronauts. It is not clean when the new vehicle, which is designed to fly crews to the moon, will be ready for human flight.
In 2022, China will launch the Wentian and Mengtian experiment modules aboard Long March 5 rockets from Wenchang. The modules are each 14.4 meters long with diameters of 4.2 meters and masses of 20,000 kg.
When fully assembled, the space station will be similar in size to the Soviet Mir station. It will have a mass of about one quarter that of the ISS.
Tianhe will be China’s third space station and the first one to be permanently crewed. The nation previously launched smaller single module Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2 that were occupied for relatively brief periods of time.
Launched in September 2011, Tiangong-1 was occupied for a total of nearly 21 days by the crews of Shenzhou-9 and Shenzou-10. Tiangong-2 was launched in 2016 and occupied for more than 26 days by the crew of Shenzhou-11.
In April 2017, the Tianzhou-1 cargo ship docked with the Tiangong-2 and refueled the uncrewed space station. The freighter later twice undocked and redocked with the station.
21 responses to “China Launches Core Module of First Permanent Space Station”
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Tianhe is 3 people in a 13 ft diameter tube about a 100 ft long when the other module is docked, if I am reading this right.
No “true” space station or spaceship crew compartment yet exists providing a Near-Sea-Level-Radiation-1-Gravity environment (NSLR1G) and the minimum space required for a multi-year mission. I would guess that at least double the interior of the exterior envelope 15 foot thick water shield would entail a 60 ft diameter workshop stage and with 4 times that interior as the length plus the 30 ft for the ends of the shield that would be 270 ft long. With a several thousand ft tether system attached to the other equal mass of the station or spaceship this is my guess at the size of a “minimum” habitable compartment.
I’m a bit more concerned about the randomness and uncontrollability of LM-5B core stage booster re-entries and crash-downs than I am about the fact that the Chinese are not, in your view, doing space stations correctly. All your constant blathering about the alleged dangers of LEO comsat constellations as “space junk” and you have nothing to say about the Chinese flinging their boosters about with such heedless abandon?
Yes, you are so concerned. Pathetic. What you are is a cyberstalker, a creepy Musk groupie that has the time to post 10 comments simply to harass me. Every few days you go right down the page with your B.S. robo-comments. Freak.
NewSpace delenda est
See my reply to Oler.
well done congratulations
I’d reserve congratulations until the LM-5B core stage now on-orbit comes down without killing anyone or causing massive property damage. Probably an even better idea to wait until the next two modules are also launched and their LM-5B core stages also come down without killing anyone or wrecking anything expensive.
I shot an LM-5B into the air.
It fell to Earth I know not where.
Worse case is the power heads come down in a farmer’s field and he has some nice titanium scrap to sell. I mean really.
Do’h! I was misinformed by Barry! He’s already apologized. And so do I.
SLS delenda est
think it is already down. interesting design actually curious if they make any use of the ability to orbit the core stage
Congratulations and Zhù nǐ hǎo yùn
Nice compromise between their 20° launch site and our US/Russian 51.6° ISS orbit.
It’s safe to assume Wentian’ & ‘Mengtian have alpha rotary joints, so this should prove to be a much more useful facility than Mir. Such a pity we can’t work with them.
Next big event, getting the ‘Heavenly Questions’ lander/rover safety on Mars!
A big part of the inclination is the ability of China’s citizenry to view what will be a bright star arcing over their skies at sunrise and sunset.
I said that kinda tung in cheek. They will be launching crew from the inland spaceport. But the effect is the same.
But a bigger part is the use of Jiuquan spaceport as the site for crew launches.
What is an “alpha rotary joint?”
Before Russia came along, we called ISS “Space Station Alpha” (then Freedom “Fred”) because the alpha joint was its most important, distinguishing feature.
The Alpha joint allows the arrays to track the sun at the orbital rate, while the beta joints track the sun over the annual precession of the orbital plane.
Simpler stations like Mir or Skylab, must turn the whole vehicle to track the sun’s annual rate, which makes pointing and prox opps difficult.
Taking apart, cleaning and lubricating the Solar Alpha Rotary Joints (SARJ) on STS 126 was the hardest, most elaborate space walks in history.
I watched a lot of the live coverage. Lots of interesting details were reported here and there. For example, I learned that the launch pad on Hainan Island has no provisions for loading the hypergolic propellants a launch vehicle like the Long March 2F requires. Which explains a lot.
Yes, CGTN is a CCP Government-run “news” channel, and yes they do seem to have a penchant for running blatantly propagandistic anti-American and pro-CCP stories. (Not that that differentiates them much from something like ESPN or CNN) But the Long March 5 launch coverage was worth watching. The whole launch coverage was presented in English, most of it very professional English.
SLS delenda est
I could not watch all of it…but what I did wactch was impressive the anchor babe looked good 🙂
no the entire thing was professionally put on, it got across their message which was “we are the leaders”
I meant the English speaking was professional. And yes, the anchor was eye candy plus seemed to ask better questions than her cohost!
SLS delenda est
This should keep their human spaceflight program in LEO for a decade or so.
It appears that reports are now surfacing of China reaching peak population as its demographics catch up with it. It will be interesting to see how this impacts their policies and economy, both long-term factors influencing their policies in space beyond the current Administration.