China's planned space station to support hundreds of experiments

Source: Xinhua| 2019-04-24 15:44:31|Editor: mingmei
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BEIJING, April 24 (Xinhua) -- Science facilities on China's planned Tiangong space station could support hundreds of space research projects after it's completed in 2022.

Sixteen experiment racks will be installed in the core module and two lab capsules of the space station, and an extravehicular experiment platform will be built.

Each rack is regarded as a lab that can support various space experiments, and astronauts can upgrade and replace the facilities.

In addition, a capsule holding a large optical telescope will fly in the same orbit as the station, according to the Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization (CSU) of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

The facilities will support a large number of research projects in fields such as astronomy, space life science, biotechnology, microgravity basic physics and space materials science.

The CSU has made breakthroughs in key technologies and a test version of the experiment racks in the core module is almost finished, said Wang Ke, director of the CSU Integration Technology Center.

At about 1.8 meters high, 1 meter wide and 900 cm deep, each rack weighs less than 500 kg.

Although the racks are smaller with about half the weight of the racks on the International Space Station (ISS), they could have similar and even better performance. "We believe more important scientific results can be achieved on China's space station," said Wang.

The space station will carry a hydrogen clock, a cold atomic clock and an optical clock to establish a high-precision time and frequency system.

"The margin of error is less than 1 second every 3 billion years," said Zhang Wei, director of the Utilization Development Center of CSU.

The time and frequency system, as well as an ultra-low temperature cold atomic experiment system, will support research in general relativity, gravitational physics and quantum physics, said Zhang.

The 2-meter-caliber space telescope, which will share the same orbit, is expected to help scientists understand the mechanism of the accelerated expansion of the universe, dark energy and dark matter, the origin and evolution of the universe and life, Zhang said.

Scientists will also conduct space life science and biotechnology experiments on the station to study how human beings might live in space for long periods, and develop new medicines.

Research on fluids, combustion and materials science under microgravity conditions could help lay the foundation for future space exploration and utilization of space resources.

China is accelerating its timetable for the Tiangong space station, with the core module expected to be launched in 2020 and completion around 2022.

Weighing 66 tonnes, the space station will be a T shape with the Tianhe core module at the center and the Wentian and Mengtian lab capsules on each side.

The station, orbiting 340 to 450 kilometers above the Earth's surface, could be enlarged to 180 tonnes if required and accommodate three to six astronauts. It is designed to last at least 10 years, but this could be prolonged through in-orbit maintenance, Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China's manned space program, has said.

China is seeking international collaboration in experiments on the station to promote sustainable global development and cooperation.

Almost 100 international cooperation proposals have been received, and about 30 have passed the initial evaluation, said Zhang.