The crowds at Airshow China are gathering around a cylindrical module representing Tiangong's living and working districts – or "Heaven's Court" – a replica of its first permanent crew of a space station
ZHUHAI, China – China on Tuesday, November 6, presented a copy of the first permanent space station space that would replace the orbit of the international community's lab and symbolize the main ambitions of a country outside the earth.
The 17-meter core module was a star attraction at the Airshow China Biennale in the southern seaside town of Zhuhai, the country's main airborne exhibition.
Outside, the Chinese J-10 combat aircraft and the J-20 hidden fighter watched the spectators zooming through the sky of Zhuhai. Back inside, the country was displaying a fleet of unmanned aircraft and other military hardware.
The crowds gathered around the module of a cylindrical space station that represents the Tiangong's living and working districts or the "Heavenly Palace" – which will have two other modules for scientific experiments and equipped with solar panels.
The three astronauts will be permanently installed in a laboratory of about 60 tons, which will allow crews to carry out research on biological and micro-gravity.
It is expected that the assembly will be completed around 2022, and the station would have a lifetime of about 10 years.
The international space station – cooperation between the United States, Russia, Canada, Europe and Japan – has been operating since 1998, but it should be withdrawn in 2024.
China will then have a single orbiting space station, although it will be much smaller than the ISS that weighs 400 tons and is as big as a football field.
Millions have been spent
The country announced in May that the lab will be open to "all countries" to conduct scientific experiments.
"There is no doubt that China will use its station in a similar way as ISS partners use their outpost: research, technology and a step towards deep-seated research," said Chen Lan, an analyst at GoTaikonauts.com, a website specializing in the Chinese space program .
Research institutes, universities and public and private companies are invited to propose projects. According to state media, about 40 plans from 27 countries and regions were received.
The European Space Agency has sent astronauts to China to improve in order to be ready to work inside the Chinese space station when it is launched.
"I'm sure China will become successful development partners over time," said Bill Ostrowy, a space analyst with the United States International Forecast Group Forecast International.
"Many countries, and more and more private companies and universities, have space programs, but they can not afford to build their own space station," he said.
"The ability to load and experiment on the human spaceflight platform is extremely valuable."
Beijing invests billions into its military-driven space program, with plans to send people to the Moon in the near future.
Citing China as a threat, US President Donald Trump has launched plans to create a new "space force" to give his country domination over its rivals in space.
A diverse market of the universe
But the Chinese space program has encountered some glitches.
A space laboratory called Tiangong-1 broke up as it returned to Earth in early April, two years after it ceased to function.
The Chinese authorities deny that the lab – which was set up in orbit in September 2011 as a terrain test station – was out of control.
The second laboratory, Tiangong-2, was launched in orbit in 2016.
"Despite a lot of talk about the opposite, the United States still remains the strongest power in space," Ostrow said.
"The most likely scenario for the future is that China will appear as one of the main space powers," he said.
However, Russia, the European Space Agency, Japan and India will continue to play "major roles" in space exploration, while private firms are becoming increasingly important in this sector, Ostrow added.
"The space market is becoming more and more diverse," he said, "so one or two countries or companies will be hard to dominate the field in the way the United States and the Soviet Union did during the Cold War." – Rappler.com