China plans to launch the core of its permanent Tianhe-1 space station around 2018, with full assembling of the multi-module facility due to be complete about four years later, officials said last week.
The emerging space power is also developing two modules to dock with the core and several advanced technologies — including robotic arms and 3D printers — that will be placed aboard the station. Officials said the station will feature two robotic arms, two 30-meter solar panels and a Hubble-class telescope.
The space station will be serviced by crewed Shenzhou spacecraft capable of carrying up to three astronauts and Tianzhou cargo ships. The resupply ship will be tested for the first time next year with a flight to China’s Tiangong-2 space station.
Tianhe-1’s core module will be launched by China’s new Long March-5 heavy-lift booster, which will make its inaugural launch later this year. The launch vehicle is capable of lifting 25 metric tons into low Earth orbit.