Space: The Chinese Space Stations

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May 30, 2017: Without much fanfare China put its own space station into orbit in 2011, This was the eight ton Tiangong 1. It lasted two years and provided practical experience for the construction and launch of the 8.6 ton Tiangong 2 in late 2016. This one is expected to last longer and in April 2017 a Chinese cargo vehicle made an automated docking with the Tiangong 2. This was a major step for the Chinese, who can now maintain two or three people in the Tiangong 2 for up to 30 days with the supplies from one cargo vehicle. China now plans to begin building the 66 ton Tiangong 3 by 2020 and complete it by 2022.

Other nations have built similar, and rather temporary space stations. That effort began in the 1970s with the Russian Salyut 1 but since the 1990s most nations with space programs have put their resources into supporting the ISS (International Space Station). This is the largest (419 tons) and occupied (usually by a crew of six) the longest in orbit (over 18 years) and the longest occupied (16 years).

 


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