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Tiangong Space Station: China marks new space milestone

GS Paper 3:

SyllabusAwareness in space


Context: Three Chinese astronauts docked at the country’s space station on Sunday.

About China’s Space Station:

  • The space station will operate in low-Earth orbit at an altitude of 340-450 km above Earth’s surface.
  • Tiangong, which means“heavenly palace”, is expected to become fully operational by the end of the year and is set to be operational for at least 10-15 years

Significance of the space station:

  • The low orbit space station would be the country’s eye from the sky, providing round the clock bird’s-eye view for its astronauts on the rest of the world.
  • It shall aid China’s aim to become a major space power by 2030.
  • It replicates the International Space Station (ISS), from which China was excluded.

Comparing with the International Space Station:

The ISS programme is a joint project between five participating space agencies: NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada)

  • ISS is now the largest human-made body in low Earth orbit. The Chinese station will be smaller and similar in design, meaning it will have limited capacity for astronauts (three versus six on ISS).
  • The completed station will be similar to the Soviet Mir station that orbited Earth from the 1980s until 2001.

But the ISS is scheduled to be decommissioned after 2024 to leave place for the Lunar Gateway, a small outpost that will orbit the Moon. This is an international initiative part of the US-led Artemis Programme that again sees China excluded.


Current Affairs


Concerns about Chinese monopoly?

  • Until the gateway is launched, however, Tiangong – which will be placed in lower Earth orbit and have an expected life of 15 years – will probably remain the only functioning space station. Some worry this makes it a security threat, arguing its science modules could be easily converted for military purposes, such as spying on countries.

Others planned space stations:

  • Lunar Gateway: involving four of the ISS partner agencies: NASA, European Space Agency (ESA), Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA), and Canadian Space Agency (CSA). It is planned to be both the first space station beyond low Earth orbit and the first space station to orbit the Moon.
  • The Russian Orbital Service Station is scheduled to begin construction in 2025.
  • Starlab is the name given to the planned LEO space station designed by Nanoracks for commercial space activities uses.
  • Indian Human Spaceflight Programme: India plans to deploy a 20-tonne space station as a follow-up programme of the Gaganyaan mission, it will be deployed in 5–7 years after the completion of the Gaganyaan project.



Prelims link:

  1. About ISS
  2. Upcoming space stations
  3. Countries involved

 Mains link:

Discuss the consequences and concerns associated with china being a major space power.


Q 5.Consider the following statements:

  1. International space station is a joint project between five space agencies, with India as a technical partner.
  2. China’s Tiangong Space Station will replace ISS in the lower earth orbit.

Choose the correct answer using the codes given below:

1 only.

2 only.