Chinese space agency is all set to launch its second spacelab Tiangong-2 next week. Long March 2F rocket will lift up the spacelab and both the entities have been transported to the launch pad located at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, yesterday. Tiangong-2 will test life support systems and refueling technology for its 60 ton modular space station.
Tiangong-2 will be placed in an orbit of 393 kilometers above the Earth and it will help in studying fundamental physics, biology, fluid mechanics in microgravity, space science and will monitor Earth from space. In addition, it has the capability to measure the topography of the oceans with very high precision which will enable scientists to study Earth’s gravity field.
Tiangong-2 has another payload named POLAR which is gamma-ray detector. It was developed by the collaboration of three countries — China, Switzerland, and Poland. POLAR will study Gamma Ray Bursts (GRBs), the most energetic event in the universe. According to reports, POLAR will work for two years and will observe a total of 20 GRBs.
If everything goes according to the plan then Tianzhou-1 (China’s first refueling and cargo vessel) will visit Tiangong-2 in the first half of the next year. Long March 7 rocket will be used to blast Tianzhou-1.
China is also preparing Tianhe-1, a core space station module for the launch in 2018 which will be lifted by the most powerful Chinese rocket — Long March 5. In addition, Chinese scientists are also making Hubble-like telescope which is scheduled for 2020.
“The vast majority of space technology being developed is dual-use, and so serves Chinese security interests as well,” says Johnson-Freese, an expert on the Chinese space program and a professor at the US Naval War College. “China understands the military advantages reaped by US space capabilities for many years, and wants those same capabilities”.
International Space Station will retire in 2024 and Chinese space station is a promising alternative. Other space agencies are looking forward to collaborate with China as Chinese station can become the international base for astronauts in coming years.