China unveiled the core module of its space station at Tianjin Aerospace Town on Saturday, March 31. The core module is called Tianhe-1 and has working space and livable living quarters for 3 astronauts who will manage control, guidance and navigation for the whole space station. Tianhe-1 holds a docking hub and a non-habitable service area. A robotic arm was also presented by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation engineers during the launch of Tianhe-1 core module. Space robotic arms can help astronauts move, grab as well as hold objects.

According to CASC, the module would be launched on board on a Long March-5 carrier rocket this year 2018. The heavyweight carrier rocket can lift 25 tonnes to low Earth orbit and will be making its first flight in September. The other components of the spacecraft will be launched soon after. This will include 2 space labs that will land with Tianhe-1 in the next 4 years or so. The complete spacecraft will have 1 core module and 2 experiment modules. Each module will weigh over 20 tons and can be linked with 1 cargo spacecraft and 2 manned spacecraft.

The Astronaut Center of China is planning to conduct astronaut training in preparation for building China’s space station. Plans include conducting desert survival training and underwater exercises. According to Peking University space science professor Jiao Weixin, China’s space station will probably be the only working station after 2024 when the ISS (International Space Station) is expected to retire. The country will be a leading force in conducting space experiments when this happens.

China started its human spaceflight program in 1992. In 2003, it became the third country after the U.S. and Russia to independently put an astronaut in space. China aims to keep the Chinese Space Station permanently crewed with 3 to 6 astronauts for at least 10 years. The space station project will have two robotic arms, a Hubble-class telescope, two 30-meter solar panel wings and three modules. The project is expected to be finished by 2022.

China’s space technology will continue to develop, so it is expected that astronaut training for spacecraft missions will also follow. Training will include theoretical study, mechanical arms operation, extravehicular activities and practical training. The Shenzhou-11 mission opened up a space station era for China. ESA (European Space Agency) is also working with the country in space missions and is open to Chinese involvement.