BEIJING, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- China may be the only country to have space station in service in 2024, said Lei Fanpei, chairman of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC).
Lei told Xinhua on Friday that 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 ton combination space station will be sent into orbit around 2022.
CASC is a major space developer.
When the International Space Station retires in 2024, China's space station may be the only one left in service, Lei said.
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.
After that, a manned spacecraft and cargo spacecraft will travel between the space station and the Earth to provide supplies. Taikonauts can stay at the space station for over one year.
The space station has a designed life of 10 years in orbit 400 km above the earth 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 the middle of October, the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft will transport two taikonauts to Tiangong-2. They will stay there for 30 days.