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China launches main part of its first permanent space station

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    Science & Technology
  • Published
    1st May, 2021


China recently launched the main module of its first permanent space station that will host astronauts long term, the latest success for a program that has realized a number of its growing ambitions in recent years.


  • The Tianhe module - which contains living quarters for crew members - was launched from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre on a Long March-5B rocket.
  • China hopes to have the new station operational by 2022.
  • The new, 66-tonne, multi-module Tiangong station is set to be operational for at least 10 years.
  • Tianhe is the core component of it. It is 16.6m long and 4.2m wide.
  • It will provide power and propulsion and contains the life support technologies and living quarters required by visiting astronauts.

China’s journey in space’s exploration

  • The only space station currently in orbit is the International Space Station (ISS), from which China is excluded.
    • The ISS is a collaboration between Russia, the US, Canada, Europe and Japan.
    • The ISS is due to be retired after 2024, which could potentially leave Tiangong as the only space station in Earth's orbit.
  • China has been a late starter when it comes to space exploration.
  • It was only in 2003 that it sent its first astronaut into orbit, making it the third country to do so, after the Soviet Union and the US.