Space laboratory phase
Chinese efforts to develop LEO space station capabilities begin with a space laboratory phase, with the launch of three Tiangong space modules.
Tiangong 1 "target vehicle"
The Chinese docking target consists of a propulsion (resource) module and a pressurized module for experiments, with a docking mechanism at either end. The docking port of the experiment section supports automated docking. Its length is 10.5m, diameter is 3.4m, with a mass of 8000kg. Launched on September 29, 2011, it is intended for short stays of a crew of three.
Tiangong 2 "space laboratory"
The Chinese Space Lab will be launched in 2013. Configuration is as follows:
- Crew Size: 3, with 20 days of life support resources.
- Length: 14.4m
- Maximum Diameter: 4.2m
- Mass: 20000kg
- Two docking ports
Tiangong 3 "space station"
The Chinese Space Lab is planned to be launched in the 2015 timeframe.
- 40 days of living conditions for three astronauts
- Evaluate regenerative life-support technology, and verify orbital replenishment of propellant and air.
Large orbital station
China plans to build what may be only the world's third multi-module space station, to follow Mir and the ISS. This is dependent upon the Tiangong 3 launch date, and the date of OPSEK's separation from the ISS. The previous separate components will be integrated into a space station, arranged as:
- Core Cabin Module (CCM) - based on the Tiangong 3 "space station" and analogous to the Mir Core Module.
- Laboratory Cabin Module I (LCM-1) and Laboratory Cabin Module II (LCM-2) - based on Tiangong 2 "space laboratory".
- Shenzhou - crewed vessel
- A cargo craft based on Tiangong-1 that will have a maximum diameter of 3.35 meters and a launch weight less than 13 tons, to transport supplies and lab facilities to the space station.
The larger station will be assembled in 2020-2022 and have a design lifetime of ten years. The complex will weigh approximately 60000kg and will support three astronauts for long-term habitation.