China successfully launched a key module of a new space station Thursday, a mission that shows the country's 'space dream' of dominating low Earth orbit is quickly becoming a reality.
China National Space Administration announced Thursday morning that the Long March-5B Y2 rocket lifted off in the southern province of Hainan with the core capsule of the new Tiangong space station.
Historic moment! Just now #China launched the Long March-5B Y2 #rocket, sending the #Tianhe天和 core module of China’s #SpaceStation into the #space. Tianhe module is China’s first space station core module and the largest spacecraft China has ever made. pic.twitter.com/ey9GYCKOao— Ambassador Deng Xijun (@China2ASEAN) April 29, 2021
The next-generation space station will take 18 months to build in low Earth orbit, with a completion year sometime in 2022. The space station is designed as a scientific research outpost for China through the end of the decade since it has been excluded from using the International Space Station (ISS).
When completed, the Tiangong space station will be approximately one-fifth the mass of the ISS and weigh about 90-metric-ton in the shape of a T. The size will be comparable to the Russian Mir space station, which operated from 1986 to 2000.
"We did not intend to compete with the ISS in terms of scale," Gu Yidong, chief scientist of the China Manned Space program, was quoted by Scientific American as saying.
The ISS recently celebrated its 20 years in operation with an end of lifespan by 2030. Already, the space station has shown signs of wear and tear amid a series of malfunctions, including air leaks.
In early April, Russia said it would pull out of the ISS in 2025 and build a space station by 2030 if Russian President Vladimir Putin provides funding. If not, Russia could soon find itself working with the Chinese in space.
President Xi Jinping has touted China's space dream as he was cited by state media as saying it's the path to "national rejuvenation."
China has recent made no secret of its space ambitions. From the moon to Mars, the country has recently landed multiple spacecraft on these extraterrestrial bodies.
Meanwhile, the US is doing the same as a space race between both countries heats up.