Image credit: Wang Zhao/AFP


Now that the International Space Station’s days are numbered, China is looking to take the lead on a permanently crewed space station. The country today unveiled its new “Heavenly Palace” space station which would replace the orbiting laboratory that’s backed by the international community.

China showcased a replica of its new space station at the biennial Zhuhai Airshow. It’s the country’s premier aerospace industry exhibition. The 17 meter core module on display attracted a fair bit of attention as you might expect.

The cylindrical module of the space station highlighted the working and living quarters of the Tiangong or Heavenly Palace. The space station will have two additional modules equipped with solar panels that will be used for scientific experiments.

The 60 ton orbiting lab will have three astronauts stationed permanently. They will be involved in conducting microgravity and biological research in addition to the experiments. China has previously said that the lab would be open to “all countries” that want to conduct science experience. The country expects to complete assembly by 2022 and says that the space station will have a lifespan of about a decade.

The International Space Station is a collaboration between the United States, Russia, Japan, Canada, and Europe. It has been in operation since 1998 and is due to retire in 2024. This would leave China with the only space station in orbit even though it would be much smaller than the ISS which is as large as a football pitch and weighs some 400 tons.

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