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a project that dates back to the early 90s – RT in French

China has finalized the assembly in orbit of its space station which, according to its Chinese or English name, responds to the name of Tiangong 3 or Chinese space station (CSS). Umpteenth feat that testifies to his rise in the space field.

On November 1, China successfully docked the Mengtian laboratory (which can be translated into French as “Dream of the skies”) to its space station Tiangong 3 – Chinese space station (CSS) for its English version – , thus finalizing the assembly of its “heavenly palace”, 18 months after the placement in orbit of its first module.

Measuring almost 18 meters long with a diameter slightly greater than 4 meters, this 23-ton cylinder had left the ground on October 31 aboard a Long March 5B rocket, from the Wenchang launch base, in the south- east of China. “The Mengtian laboratory module has successfully docked with the Chinese space station Tiangong,” said the Chinese press, video support, on social networks.

The Mengtian module is one of two science labs on the Chinese space station. It is designed to accommodate experiments related to microgravity, fluid physics, materials and combustion sciences and fundamental physics.

The other laboratory, which offers a space to carry out similar activities, is called Wentian (for “celestial explorer”) and was moored at the station in July 2022.

A project that dates back three decades

The very idea of ​​an independent station owned by China dates back to the beginnings of the creation of the agency responsible for the country’s space program, the China National Space Administration (CNSA), which came into being on April 11, 1993.

This Chinese desire for spatial emancipation has always worried the American administration, which is particularly concerned about maintaining its hegemony in this area.

Thus, while the request for Chinese participation in the ISS was refused at the end of the 90s, Washington, in 2011, prohibited NASA from collaborating with China or any Chinese company, such a decision definitively excluding Beijing. ISS programs.

A space adventure that should last at least a decade

The CSS has therefore now acquired its final T-shape, similar in size to the former Russian-Soviet station Mir. Its life should be at least 10 years. In the future, the Chinese station could also accommodate a Xuntian optical module, “a Hubble-class space telescope that will be able to dock with the station for maintenance and repairs”, as explained by the specialized site spacenews.

Until then, Tiangong 3 should give rise to multiple cooperation between China and the countries interested in its use.

Beijing invited as early as 2016, via the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs, the member countries of the United Nations to use its future station in accordance with the following principles: “Peaceful use of space; equality in the sharing of the results obtained; joint development. The Chinese space agency had already received, at the end of 2018, around forty proposals from 27 countries.

Overall, this space adventure is reminiscent of the country’s strategy in terms of partnerships and alliances.

“China is clearly exercising its power with a view to expansion but respecting the principle of win-win. It is not a question of philanthropy, it is the common interests that prevail”, analyzed in March 2021 for RT France Bruno Guigue, researcher in political philosophy.


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