China may be the only space station in service when the International Space Station (ISS) retires in 2024, an official of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) said on Friday.
China plans to launch the experimental core module of its space station around 2018 with a Long March-5 heavyload carrier rocket, and the 20 tonne combination space station will be sent into orbit around 2022, Xinhua news agency quoted Chairman of CASC Lei Fanpei as saying.
China’s space station will include a core module and two lab modules, with ports that will allow multiple spacecraft to dock, according to Lei. Following this, a manned spacecraft and cargo spacecraft will travel between the space station and the Earth to provide supplies. Taikonauts — Chinese astronaut — can stay at the space station for over one year.
The space station has a designed life of 10 years in orbit which is 400 km above the Earth’s surface. With this space station, China will become the second country after Russia to have developed a space station, Lei said.
China in 1992 made a three-step strategy for its manned space program, the large-scale manned space station being the last step. In mid October, the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft would transport two taikonauts to Tiangong-2. They would stay there for 30 days.