China’s Tiangong space station is about to double in size

SYFY‘S ark (Now streaming on Peacock) The crew of the Ark One is taken on a one-way trip to Proxima Centauri. Building a ship capable of carrying a large crew to another star would be a huge undertaking that would require global cooperation. Our closest real-world analog is the International Space Station, the largest spacecraft ever built by humanity.

The massive orbiting science laboratory was built and is maintained by five partner space agencies and more than a dozen nations. Additionally, it has been continuously inhabited for more than two decades, making it our longest-running human experiment in space. That experiment will end with that decade, when the station closes in 2030. Fortunately, a new generation of space stations is already in progress and China’s Tiangong is preparing for a major upgrade.

China’s Tiangong Station is preparing to accelerate development

Tiangong orbits 280 miles (450 kilometers) above Earth’s surface, slightly higher than the ISS’s orbit of 254 miles (408 kilometers). It became operational in 2022 and has a total of three modules capable of supporting three astronauts at any time. Recently, China announced plans to double the size of the station to six modules, opening up space for additional astronauts from international partners.

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The expansion was announced by Zhang Qiao of the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) at the 47th International Astronautical Congress in Baku, Azerbaijan. Zhang said the upgraded station will weigh an estimated 180 tons and include an expansion module with six docking ports. China also plans to launch a space telescope able to dock with Tiangong for maintenance and repairs.

Upgrades are expected over the next few years, just as the ISS is being shut down, but it’s unclear who, if anyone, will take China up on its offer. The European Space Agency previously expressed interest in sending astronauts to Tiangong, but has since reconsidered.

RELATED: China reveals plan to land astronauts on the Moon by 2030

“Right now we have neither the budgetary nor the political, let’s say, green light or intention to get involved in a second space station; He is participating on the Chinese space station,” ESA Director General Joseph Eschbacher said, via SpaceNews. Similarly, NASA is committed to the ISS until 2030 and has stated its intention to change commercial partners for access to low-Earth orbit after the ISS is down. Meanwhile, NASA is planning to build the Lunar Gateway, an orbiting space station around the Moon.

Who knows, maybe we will find a lot of stations there and then we will decide to combine them all together and create a mega station, Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets Style. If ark What space travel teaches us is that we can only do it if we work together.

Watch the entire first season of The Ark streaming now on Peacock!

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