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Countdown to China's new space programs begins

Xinhua, December 8, 2014 Adjust font size:

The Tiangong-2 space lab will be launched around 2016 along with the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft and Tianzhou-1 cargo ship. Around 2018, a core experimental module for the station will be put in place.

By around 2022, China's first orbiting space station should be completed. It will consist of three parts -- a core module attached to two labs, each weighing about 20 tonnes.

Tiangong-1 was launched in September 2011. In June 2012, the Shenzhou-9 executed the first manual space docking with Tiangong-1, another essential step in building a space station.

Heavy rocket

A powerful carrier rocket is essential for a manned moon landing.

"We hope to make breakthroughs within four or five years on design and key technology for the heavy carrier, a solid foundation for developing such a rocket," he said.

Breakthroughs are needed on the overall design of the rocket, including development of a 460 tonne thrust liquid oxygen and kerosene engine and a 220 tonne liquid hydrogen engine.

"We hope to finish all these within the next 15 years, so the heavy rocket will make its first maiden flight sometime around 2030," Lei said

The rocket is envisaged as having a payload capacity of 130 tonnes to low Earth orbit. Once in service, it will help with missions between 2030 and 2050, and secure China's position in terms of space exploration and technology.

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