The Chinese space program is planning to launch a new spacecraft in April, in an important step in preparation for building the country’s next space station, as a media source told Xinhua that the Long March 5B missile will carry a “test version” of the new spacecraft, which was designed To transport crews of astronauts up to six people, while previous Chinese spacecraft carried only up to three astronauts.
The Long March 5B missile is a modified version of the Long March 5 heavy lift missile in China, which began flying in 2016.
China plans to finish the space station by 2022, after more than 10 building and assembly missions in orbit, as the station will be shaped like a T-shirt, with a basic module, called Tianhe, at the center, and one laboratory capsule on either side of it.
The station will provide up to 5,650 cubic feet (160 cubic meters) of living space across the three units, which is just over a third of the space on the International Space Station, which contains 13,696 cubic feet (388 cubic meters) of space.
Also, unlike previous Chinese space stations that required launching water from Earth, the water in the new space station will be recovered from the water vapor of the astronauts and from recycled and purified urine.
This space station will also carry machines that can produce additional oxygen, and the Chinese space complex will have a field for scientific experiments in fields ranging from astronomy to basic physics to life science, and China is also planning to launch an optical telescope on a capsule flying “in the same orbit”.