China plans to build its own space station called Tiangong, the name of which translates as "Heavenly Palace." Its key module called Tianhe ("Harmony of the Heavens") was launched into orbit on April 29 from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in south China's Hainan Province by the Long March-5B Y2 rocket.
Tianhe is made in the shape of the letter T. Three spacecraft will be able to dock to it for a short stay, and two will be able to dock to it for a longer time. The key module compartment is located in the center. Its length is 16.6 m, the maximum diameter is 4.2 m, and its mass is 22.5 tons at takeoff. Tianhe is the largest spacecraft ever built in China.
Tiangong is slated for completion in 2022 and is expected to operate for 10 years. However, according to experts, the station can last more than 15 years with proper repair. It will operate in low Earth orbit, at altitudes ranging from 340 km to 450 km.
China plans to make at least four more launches to the new station this year. First, the cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-2 should be launched, then the first flight with people will take place on Shenzhou-12. Three Chinese astronauts will have to spend three months in orbit. During this time, another cargo spacecraft, Tianzhou-3, will be sent to Tiangong. After that, a second crewed spacecraft with a crew of three will be sent to the station for 6 months.
China does not participate in the International Space Station project, but seeks to become a competitor to the United States in space.