Chinese Mini Space Station

From Slashdot via Hobbyspace.

There’s some confusion regarding Shenzou 7 (the upcoming mission), 8, 9 and 10 forming a space station by snapping together in orbit.

The orbital module of Shenzou can stay behind on orbit just fine, it can function as an independent spacecraft, while the crew returns with the crew module. They have done this with previous Shenzous as well. If the OM:s (or some of them) have docking ports on both ends, I don’t think it will be that hard to dock and chain them.

I don’t remember if they have demonstrated rendezvous and docking yet in any scale. I imagine it being quite a lot easier nowadays with better comms and computers than during the days of Gemini.

Of course, this is a model for orbital propellant depots as well. Too bad the western space agencies are too corrupt and self-absorbed to think anything like that.

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8 Responses to Chinese Mini Space Station

  1. Jonathan Goff says:

    While I agree you could do propellant depots that way, for cryo propellant depots, there are other ways that are better. Thermal control is the name of the game for cryo propellant depots, and having lots of little stations all tied together is far from optimal. But I do have some ideas on how to do a good cryo propellant depot that don’t involve launchers any bigger than the EELV class vehicles flying today. And I definitely agree that the intentional myopia regarding propellant depots can be annoying.


  2. gravityloss says:

    Well, mostly it is a model for the tankers moving in and out. And overall the idea that you can use multiple launches of the same spacecraft and their elements for something.

    Ie the idea that space launch is expensive because the hardware is expensive, but hardware is less expensive if it’s just a copy of an old design. (ISS modules are quite different from each other…)

    A US traditional lunar expedition tanking from a propellant depot is possible today with EELV:s, and has been since 2002 or so.
    A rigid one size hydrogen tank (on the depot / on the expedition stack) is the most volume limited part, but even that is not huge. Modern comm and military sats require quite big fairings from the launchers already, at least with Ariane in the case of dual launch.

  3. gravityloss says:

    The depot hydrogen tank with the caveats that
    1) you might not need one because
    1a) you don’t use hydrogen
    1b) you launch the expedition hydrogen tank fully filled and set for moon immediately after loading LOX (the FLEX architecture)
    2) you might use an inflatable one
    3) you might use multiple tanks

  4. Phil Mills says:

    I’v just seen report on preparations for todays Shenzhou 7 launch on CCTV 9. The Chinese really have good coverage. Regards the Chinese Mini Space Station. The orbital module of Shenzhou 7 is not equipped with any docking ports or solar panels for that matter, so will not be used again after this mission. EVA Hand rails are fitted in place of the solar panels and a satellite and Gas bottles are installed on the top of the orbital module. Shenzhou 7 will also be the last launch using the Long March 2F launch vehicle. Shenzhou 8 & 9 will be launched unmanned using new Long March 5 and will launch modules for the mini station. These will dock and await Shenzhou 10 which will have the first Chinese Space Station crew. 8 &9 will have no reentry modules just propulsion modules for the space station modules.
    I hope this clears up speculation on future Chinese plans.

  5. gravityloss says:

    Excellent, Phil, great thanks!
    I wonder, Long March 5 is a long way off. It is a big rocket, built in a new factory, then transported over water to the Hainan island in the South China Sea to a new launch center. First launch should be around 2013 according to Wikipedia.
    Slow moving, I really don’t know how Michael Griffin can paint such a picture of China taking over US.

  6. gravityloss says:

    On the other hand, if Long March 5 proves to be a good workhorse in the EELV size class, China could do a lot with it and orbital assembly.

    Of course, the west could have done this since the early 00:s with its own lifters in the class: Ariane 5, Delta IV, Atlas V, at the very least, but instead some heavy lift dreams have been pursued, without judgment or conceptual studies forming a rigorous justification for the need of one…

  7. Phil Mills says:

    Hi Gravityloss,
    I’m watching live TV from CCTV-9. Has really good coverage. Regards Chinese plans for manned lunar landing. Scientist on the TV program just said after been asked by the lady presenter if there is a program to land on the moon, that Scientists are asking the Chinese government if they can do a program. So as at present there is no Chinese manned landing program. The Chinese president also said today that the program is to develop a permanent space station. Thats all. So all the hype about the Chinese getting to the moon before NASA is just that!
    Regards the station. Found illustration that I sent to Clark which shows the station module. They are launched similar to Pirs module connected to service modules, from Shenzhou. Illustration shows one docking with standard Shenzhou. Probably Shenzhou 8 & 9 in unmanned test at rendezvous. The Chinese program is certainly developing the technology to do Earth Orbital Assembly which opens up lots of possibilities.
    I have seen the Wikipedia on CZ-5. I would bet that it is at least 5 years away from going into use so station will be at least as long. It was 3 years since Shenzhou 6 so no problem in time span for them.

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