China expects to complete space station by 2023
China will complete its first space station within 10 years and be able to send crews of up to six people for short-term missions, according to the 64th International Astronautical Congress.
At the congress, which has been held annually since 1950, China released a host of details about its space station to around 3,600 delegates from all over the world.
"Room in the station will be no less than 60 square meters, which is enough for astronauts to move freely," said Xu Dazhe, general manager of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, at the five-day event that began on Monday in Beijing.
He said the station will also be able to support three astronauts on long-term missions. China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp is the main contractor for the Chinese space program.
According to China Manned Space Engineering Office, the space station will consist of three capsules with a cargo shuttle to transport supplies.
The station's core module will be 18.1 meters in length and will weigh 20 to 22 metric tons. The space station will also consist of two self-contained laboratories.
Wang Zhaoyao, director of China Manned Space Agency, said astronauts will be able to make long-term missions in orbit and conduct technical tests.
But more research and development will be needed to complete the space station, Zhou Jianping, chief designer of the manned space program, told Chinanews on Monday. He said China will be able to launch the planned space station in 10 years.
On Tuesday, Liu Yang, China's first female astronaut, said the nation is also willing to accept foreign astronauts for future missions.
Xu said that China will launch the Tiangong-2 space laboratory in around two years to test technologies in renewable life support and in-orbit refueling, adding that perfecting the technologies will be essential for the planned space station.
He said one cargo shuttle and several manned spaceships will be launched to dock with the Tiangong-2.
The country successfully carried out its first manual space docking, another essential step in building a space station, in June last year when three Chinese astronauts — Liu, Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang — piloted Shenzhou-9 to link up with Tiangong-1.
China became the third country to launch a human into space in 2003 and has been rapidly expanding its space program.
Berndt Feuerbacher, former president of the International Astronautical Federation, said at the congress that China's space program is not only becoming more successful and advanced, it is looking for cooperation opportunities.
"The congress should help strengthen international cooperation with China," he said.