After the successful maiden flight of the Long March-5B large rocket and the testing of China's new-generation manned spaceship, more details of China's space station have been unveiled.
The space station, expected to be completed around 2022, will operate in the low-Earth orbit at an altitude from 340 km to 450 km for more than 10 years, supporting large-scale scientific, technological and application experiments, according to a report in the People's Daily.
The space station Tiangong, meaning Heavenly Palace, will be able to accommodate three astronauts in normal circumstances and up to six during a crew replacement.
The station will be a T shape with the core module at the center and a lab capsule on each side. Each of the modules will be over 20 tonnes, with the total mass of the station about 66 tonnes, said Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China's manned space program.
If China's Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2 space labs are like one-bedroom apartments, the space station is equivalent to an apartment with three bedrooms, a living room, a dining room and a storage room, said Zhu Guangchen, deputy chief designer of the space station from China Academy of Space Technology (CAST).
The core module of the station, named Tianhe, has a total length of 16.6 meters, a maximum diameter of 4.2 meters and a takeoff mass of 22.5 tonnes, and is currently the largest spacecraft developed by China.
The Tianhe core module will be the management and control center and the main living space of the crew, and will support some scientific and technological experiments.
The living space in the core module is about 50 cubic meters. Combined with the two lab capsules, the whole living space could be up to 110 cubic meters, according to CAST.
The core module has two berth ports connecting to the two lab capsules, and three docking ports for the crew spacecraft, cargo and other craft. It also has an exit for astronauts to conduct extravehicular activities.