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  • China's Space Plan
    Posted by Frank Morring, Jr. 6:05 PM on Apr 14, 2010

    Colorado Springs - China’s human spaceflight program has new plans to use versions of its Tiangong docking-target vehicle as a testbed for regenerative life support and early space-science experiments in preparation for operating a full-scale, three-person space station late in this decade.

    But Wang Wenbao, head of the China Manned Space Engineering Office, is ready to cooperate across the board on human spaceflight with NASA and other agencies, including using  China’s planned 13-ton cargo vehicle to resupply the International Space  Station.

    That would require detailed discussions on a uniform standard for docking and other interfaces, Wang said here in his first interview with Western reporters. He hopes the issue will be addressed when NASA Administrator Charles Bolden visits Beijing.

    “We think that a joint spaceflight mission, joint development of space equipment and also joint utilization of space platforms are the most possible field to carry out discussion at the moment,” Wang said.

    China’s human spaceflight chief outlined his program’s plans to get to a 30-ton space station in the 2016-22 time frame. The Tiangong 1 docking target, set for launch in the first half of 2011, will be followed by two more versions – Tiangong  2 and 3 – that will offer more facilities for experiments and a regenerative life-support testbed, respectively.

    As previously announced, the unmanned Shenzhou 8 spacecraft will attempt an autonomous rendezvous and docking with Tiangong 1 in the second  half of 2011. If that mission goes well, Shenzhou 9 and 10 will follow with human crews. If there are problems with Shenzhou 8, Shenzhou 9 also will be an unmanned mission, Wang said.

    The stepwise approach follows past China practice of moving cautiously through more and more complex missions. The space station’s three pressurized modules will be launched on the planned Long March 5 from the new launch facility under development on Hainan Island, Wang said. But human crews – and the Tiangong vehicles – will continue to fly from Jiuquan on the Long March 2F, he said.

    Station crews will probably stay for six-month increments during the station’s 10-year planned service life. Crew will conduct spacewalks for assembly and maintenance, drawing on the experience gained on the Shenzhou 7 mission.

    Wang and his party will travel to Kennedy Space Center early next week, where they will see the same sort of human launch facilities they displayed in China last fall to a delegation organized by the Space Foundation, sponsor of the symposium here.

    Tags: ss10, os99, China, NASA, human-spaceflight

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