Artist impression of Tiangong 1 space station (China Manned Space Agency - CMSA)
One of the goals of Project 921 is to orbit a Chinese space station. Phase I of the program was putting a man into space and returning him safely. This phase culminated in the launches of ShenZhou 5 and ShenZhou 6. Phase II of Project 921 calls for a temporary space station. The launch of ShenZhou 7 marked the beginning of this phase, expected to culminate in 2015/16. Phase III has the goal of a larger, more permanent station with completion in the 2020 to 2025 time frame.
By 2009, the plan had been refined. The Tiangong ("Sky Palace" or "Heavenly Palace") was have two docking ports (ultimately, it had only one) and serves as the 8.5 tonne core for the Phase II space stations. TianGong 1 was launched 29 September 2011 and was expected to stay in orbit for about two years. Fearing a failure of TianGong 2, it was left in orbit beyond its life expectancy. ShenZhou 8 was then launched unmanned to dock to the station. Manned missions will then follow with ShenZhou 9 and ShenZhou 10. TianGong 1 reentered on 2 April 2018.
Tiangong 2 was launched 15 September 2016. ShenZhou 11 was the only mission. TianGong 2 was originally built as a backup to TianGong 1, but featured several improvements including the ability to be refueled by a cargo vehicle, had an oxygen generator, and an advanced water recycling system. There was an unmanned fuel and cargo resupply mission (Tianzhou 1) on 20 April 2017. Tiangong 2 deorbited on 19 July 2019.
Phase III provides for a larger (20-22 tonne), more permanent station (Tiangong) in the 2021-25 timeframe. This station consists of a core module (Tianhe) launched in 2021 and three experiment modules: Wentian - 24 July 2022, Mengtian - 31 October 2022, and Xuntian Space Telescope - possibly December 2023, each 20-22 tonnes and capable of independent flight.
28 April 2021 - Tianhe core module launched, A 3 person crew was launched 17 June 2021. Additional crews will follow.
Conceptual view of Tiangong space station
The core module, Tianhe, is equipped with an aft docking port, and a multiport dock on the forward end. This multiport assembly allows for an EVA hatch and capacity for 4 other components. Two of these ports will be used for the Wentian and Mengtian modules.
The Wentian ("quest for the hedavens") lab was launched 24 July 2022 from the Wenchang space center.
Wentian lab (Credit: CASC)
Note on names: The initial, smaller space stations were named "Tiangong", followed by a number. The current, larger space station is simply "Tiangong."
Page last modified: 05 November 2022 09:17:34.