Chinese Space Station in the Works?... Feb 25, 2006 16:47:11 GMT -6
Post by Chicago Astronomer Joe on Feb 25, 2006 16:47:11 GMT -6
China Might Be Planning Early Space Station Attempt
From: Dr Morris Jones is a lecturer at Deakin University, Australia:
In my earlier 2006 piece (Spacewalk for Shenzhou), I pointed out that the spacewalking plans for Shenzhou 7, to be launched in 2007, were on-track with previous reports. They also represented a logical, methodical progression in goals for the first Shenzhou missions. If Shenzhou 7 achieves its goals of demonstrating multiple crewmembers on an extended mission (several days in orbit) with EVA, it will be an outstanding achievement. More to the point, it will mean that China has done just about everything that can be accomplished with a free-flying capsule-style spacecraft. Any future "solo" Shenzhou missions would simply be repeating tasks that had been previously demonstrated.
It's logical that China would plan more ambitious feats for missions beyond Shenzhou 7. China has previously stated that it intended to perform a docking with a mission soon after Shenzhou 7, and that the launch of a small "space laboratory", or space station, was being planned. But official statements were scarce and nondescript. Some seemed to imply that a crewed Shenzhou spacecraft would dock with the abandoned Orbital Module of another Shenzhou, left in orbit by a previous mission. Other theories suggested a docking between two Shenzhou spacecraft, one of which would hold no crew. Or two crewed Shenzhou vehicles could dock, and possibly exchange crewmembers.
The "space laboratory" was expected to come later, once China had introduced a new generation of heavy-lift rockets. The Long March 2F rocket, which launches Shenzhou, was apparently not powerful enough to lift it.
For many years, analysts have noted the preparation of two launchpads at Jiuquan that seemed earmarked for Shenzhou. They speculated that China may have been planning to launch two Shenzhou spacecraft into orbit at almost the same time. Such plans now seem unlikely, but both pads will be necessary two support a flight rate of three missions in roughly three months. China will also need to ramp up its rocket and spacecraft production to deal with this demanding schedule.
Full story here at PhysOrg.com: www.physorg.com/news11156.html
The more the merrier I say.