China sets out launch plans amid target to complete space station by end of 2022

6 January 2022, 08:44

A rocket carrying a crew of Chinese astronauts
China Space. Picture: PA

China is increasing its missions as it seeks to take a leading role in space exploration.

China has recommitted itself to completing its orbiting space station by the end of the year and said it is planning more than 40 launches in 2022, putting it roughly level with the United States.

Among the launches will be two Shenzhou crewed missions, two Tianzhou cargo spacecraft and the station’s additional two modules, the official Xinhua News Agency reported, citing a recent announcement by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation known as CASC.

Named Mengtian and Wentian, the science modules will join the Tianhe core module that is currently home to a three-person crew.

The launch schedule shows how China’s traditionally cautious programme is increasing its missions as it seeks to take a leading role in space exploration.

The US expects around the same number of launches this year, after the pace slowed in 2021 because of the Covid-19 pandemic. Supply chains for crucial items such as computer chips were disrupted and liquid oxygen used as rocket fuel had to be diverted to hospitals to save patients.

Among the most anticipated is the launch expected around March of the Space Launch System – a rocket slated for future lunar missions.

China’s military-run space programme was barred from the International Space Station, mainly due to US objections.

Working largely on its own, China has pushed ahead with its Tiangong space station programme, building and then abandoning two experimental stations before embarking on the latest iteration.

The current six-month mission, Shenzhou-13, by the crew aboard Tianhe is China’s longest since it first put a human in space in 2003, becoming only the third country to do so after Russia and the US.

The crew has conducted a pair of spacewalks – including the first by a Chinese female astronaut – and carried out tests alongside the station’s robotic service arm, which on Thursday successfully undocked then redocked the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft for the first time.

By Press Association

Latest World News

See more Latest World News

George Floyd case

Jury selected in US federal trial over killing of George Floyd

Joe Biden

Biden issues new warning to Russia over invading Ukraine

Covid Austria

Austrian parliament approves universal vaccine mandate

Capitol riot investigation

Capitol investigation committee requests interview with Ivanka Trump

Entrance to Auschwitz

UN approves resolution to condemn denial of the Holocaust

Afghanistan women's protest

Woman activist arrested by Taliban in raid on her home in Kabul

Antony Blinken

US warns of ‘swift, severe’ response if Russia invades Ukraine

Scene of Liberia stampede

At least 29 people die in stampede at religious festival in Liberia

Novak Djokovic is reportedly preparing to sue the Australian government.

Novak Djokovic 'to sue Australian government for £3m' over deportation

Liz Truss will urge Mr Putin to engage in "meaningful discussions" about the situation in Ukraine

Putin must 'step back' from war and free world will 'stand its ground', says Foreign Sec

Antony Blinken and Annalena Baerbock

US and European diplomats meet in Berlin to discuss Ukraine situation

Former Pope Benedict failed to act on child sexual abuse

Pope Benedict 'failed to act' in four child sexual abuse cases, report finds

Audio footage has been obtained from the final conversation between the Texas synagogue attacker Malik Akram and his younger brother Gulbar, who urged his sibling to surrender.

'Think about your kids': Brother's desperate phone call with Texas synagogue attacker

Russian Sukhoi 30 jet

Russia accuses the West of ‘plotting provocations’ over Ukraine

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

Former Pope Benedict criticised over handling of sexual abuse claims

Tina Turner at Wembley

Tina Turner and husband buy £56m estate on shore of Lake Zurich