Feeds

China sets out space-station plan, asks public to name it

Orbital heavenly palace to get ISS-style robo supply pods

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

The People's Republic of China will go it alone to assemble a small manned space station in orbit this decade, according to plans announced by officials yesterday.

The China Daily reports on a news conference held by the PRC's Manned Space Engineering Office, the arm of the People's Liberation Army* responsible for Chinese manned space efforts.

"Considering past achievements and the bright future, we feel that the manned space program should have a more vivid symbol," said Wang Wenbao, director of the Office.

According to Wenbao and his colleagues the station, yet to be named, will be assembled by docking together an 18m-long core module and two 14-metre lab modules to form a T shape with the lab modules forming the arms of the T. Manned Shenzhou modules serving as crew ferries and lifeboats will dock at the central junction, and specially developed unmanned supply ships - along the lines of the Russian Progress and European ATV jobs which service the International Space Station - will dock at the bottom of the T.

All up the Chinese station is expected to mass around 60 tonnes, quite small compared to the 400-tonne+ ISS or even Russia's 1990s-era Mir station which weighed in at approximately 130 tonnes. Nonetheless it will be only the third multi-module space station ever built, a notable achievement for a relatively recently arrived space player like China.

Previously the rough plans for a station have been referred to under the name "Tiangong", meaning roughly "heavenly palace". However the PLA is now taking a leaf out of NASA's book by inviting the Chinese public to submit names for the station and its attendant cargo ships.

"The future space station should carry a resounding and encouraging name," said Wenbao. "We now feel that the public should be involved in the names and symbols as this major project will enhance national prestige, and strengthen the national sense of cohesion and pride."

Names for the station will be taken until 25 July and a selection will be made by the end of September, China Daily reports. A handle will be chosen for the cargo ship by the end of June, so suggestions for that will need to be in by May 20. Our Chinese readers can pop in their ideas by email to kongjianzhan@vip.qq.com, or at the Manned Space Engineering Office website.

Immediate moves expected toward the station's deployment are launch of a test unmanned "Tiangong-1" module and an unmanned Shenzhou ship later this year in a mission designed to try out the station's docking technology. Manned Shenzhou missions from next year may visit the core module, but long stays in space by taikonauts - of the sort needed to permanently crew the station - aren't expected right away.

According to spokesman Wang Zhaoyao, under the current Five-Year Plan (2011-15) the People's Republic expects to achieve 20-day manned space missions. It will also move to develop the unmanned cargo ships which will allow a permanent crew aboard the space station.

The China Daily report is here. ®

Bootnote

*One should bear in mind that the PLA is in charge of much larger sections of government and even private activity than is normal in other nations: the mere fact of the PLA being in charge doesn't lend the Chinese space programme a particularly military character.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Our LOHAN spaceplane ballocket Kickstarter climbs through £8000
Through 25 per cent but more is needed: Get your UNIQUE rewards!
LOHAN tunes into ultra long range radio
And verily, Vultures shall speak status unto distant receivers
NASA to reformat Opportunity rover's memory from 125 million miles away
Interplanetary admins will back up data and get to work
SpaceX prototype rocket EXPLODES over Texas. 'Tricky' biz, says Elon Musk
No injuries or near injuries. Flight stayed in designated area
EOS, Lockheed to track space junk from Oz
WA facility gets laser-eyes out of the fog
Volcanic eruption in Iceland triggers CODE RED aviation warning
Lava-spitting Bárðarbunga prompts action from Met Office
LOHAN Kickstarter breaks NINETEEN THOUSAND of your EARTH POUNDS
That's right, OVER 9,000 beer tokens - and counting
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Advanced data protection for your virtualized environments
Find a natural fit for optimizing protection for the often resource-constrained data protection process found in virtual environments.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.