On March. 4, China Manned Space Engineering Office announced that the construction of Tiangong space station has entered a new phase and it is ready to launch its central module, known as “Tianhe-1.” Aiming for a crewed mission into space, the space project prepares to launch a cargo and refueling craft as well.
On Dec. 25, 2020, the chief designer of China’s manned space program Zhou Jianping revealed that the central module will be sent by a Long March-5B Y2 rocket from Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in Hainan Province. The central module has a mass of about 20,000 kilograms and will be placed in orbit at an average altitude of 393 kilometers with an orbital inclination of 42 degrees. The central module’s launch is slated for the first half of this year.
According to the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology’s rocket expert Jiang Jie, many more types of Long March carrier rockets will be used to support this construction beside the Long March-5B. The Long March-7 rocket will launch the Tianzhou-2 and Tianzhou-3 cargo spacecraft, while the Long March-2F will carry the Shenzhou-12 and Shenzhou-13 manned spacecraft into space.
At present, four chosen astronauts of this crewed mission are going through rigorous training. Tests on the core module have reportedly been completed.
China is scheduled to complete the space station’s construction around 2022. The construction project will be implemented in two phases and six flight missions. Composed of a central module, the Tiangong space station will be a Mir-type orbital laboratory.