The combined photo taken on Sept. 15, 2016 shows China's space lab Tiangong-2 roaring into the air on the back of a Long March-2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China. (Xinhua/Ju Zhenhua)
JIUQUAN, Sept. 16 (Xinhua) -- China's space lab Tiangong-2 may serve for more than five years and co-exist with China's first space station, scheduled for completion around 2020, an expert at the Chinese manned space program told Xinhua Friday.
China successfully launched Tiangong-2 on a Long March-2F T2 rocket, blasting off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwest Gobi Desert Thursday.
With a designed life of two years, Tiangong-2 was originally built as a backup to Tiangong-1, which completed its mission in March, said Zhu Congpeng, chief designer of Tiangong-2.
"But we expect Tiangong-2 to serve for more than five years given the introduction of an in-orbit propellant technique for the first time," Zhu said.
In April 2017, China's first cargo spaceship Tianzhou-1 will be sent into orbit to dock with the space lab, providing fuel and other supplies.
"If the fuel-supply experiment goes well, China will then become the second country after Russia to master the in-orbit propellant technique," Zhu said.
While in space, the 8.6-tonne space lab will maneuver itself into orbit about 393 kilometers above the Earth's surface. As it is higher than past manned space missions, which were conducted at 343 kilometers, the Tiangong-2 will be more cost-effective and have a longer lifespan, said Zhu.
Though it looks similar to Tiangong-1, Tiangong-2's interior living quarters and life support system have been improved to allow longer astronaut stays.
It is designed to enable two astronauts to live in space for up to 30 days and to receive manned and cargo spaceships.
The space lab will also be used to conduct space science experiments on a relatively large scale compared to China's previous efforts.
Spotlight: China's Tiangong-2 space lab draws global praise
China on Thursday hurled its first Tiangong-2 lab into space, marking another step forward in the country's plans to establish a permanent station by the early 2020s.
China's rapid development in space exploration within the past decade has impressed the world. Martin Barstow, director of Leicester Institute of Space & Earth Observation at the University of Leicester, told Xinhua in a recent interview that China's developing space program is another major milestone towards establishing a permanent presence in space.
"The earlier success of the first space station (Tiangong-1) shows how the program is developing and the new space laboratory will continue to add to China's status as a major space power," the professor said.
Former NASA astronaut Leroy Chiao, the first Chinese-American to be commander of the International Space Station, hailed Tiangong-2 as "another significant step for China's human spaceflight program."
"China is moving in a very deliberate and orderly fashion to advance their space capability," Chiao said. "I think the technology is good, and they are moving to get more operational experience through TG-2, before the beginning of space station construction."
Barstow also spoke highly of China's space capability, saying "China is already a key player in the international space industry," and Tiangong-2 will "enhance" its well-developed space capability.
Gao Yang, director of Surrey Technology for Autonomous Systems and Robotics (STAR) Lab, said manned spaceflight is of indicative significance in space technology, and China's rapid development in this area is well-known.
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) said in an article published on Thursday that "Beijing has made space exploration a national priority and is the third country, after the Soviet Union and the U.S., to put astronauts into space."
INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION NEEDED
In different interviews Xinhua carried with space experts, all mentioned the need for international cooperation in space exploration. Space station programs have always been a cradle for countries to work together, Gao said.
Such collaboration has been vividly reflected in the Tiangong-2 mission, which carries, among a number of scientific experiments, an astrophysics detector that is the first space-science experiment built jointly by China with European countries.
POLAR, dedicated to establishing whether the photons from Gama ray bursts (GRBs) -- thought to be a particularly energetic type of stellar explosion -- are polarized, was built largely with Swiss funding, and with the collaboration of Swiss, China and Polish scientists and support from the European Space Agency (ESA), according to the British journal Nature.
POLAR project manager Nicolas Produit, who spoke to Nature, said U.S. law bars NASA from doing joint projects with China's space agencies, but the Chinese Academy of Sciences is discussing a number of other collaborative space projects with the ESA.
Gregory Kulacki, senior analyst and China project manager at the U.S.-based Union of Concerned Scientists' Global Security Program, said that it is encouraging that China intends to solicit international participation in its space station project.
"My hope is that the United States and China will, at an appropriate time in the future, find a way to cooperate in the peaceful exploration of space instead of competing to turn it into a battlefield, as they are now," he said.
Chiao said international coperation is "a common point of interest that helps improve overall relationships. The International Space Station is a great example of that. Many nations came together to build the amazing facility, and we are working together to further science. This helps to improve overall relations between the member countries."
Barstow believed that more and more countries are seeing the importance of space activity but this will not turn into a race. He said that to benefit smaller economies, a growth of space activity across the world will need to be nurtured by the major agencies like ESA, NASA, the Russian Federal Space Agency (Roscomos) and China National Space Administration (CNSA).
CHINA'S AMBITIOUS SPACE PROGRAM
China has been actively developing a three-step manned space program since the first decade of the 21st century.
The program's first mission took place in 1999 with the launch of the Shenzhou-1 to examine the performance and reliability of the launcher and verify key technologies relating to capsule connection and separation, heat prevention, control and landing.
The first step, to send an astronaut into space and return safely, was fulfilled by Yang Liwei in the Shenzhou-5 mission in 2003.
The second step was developing advanced space flight techniques and technologies including extra-vehicular activity and orbital docking. This phase also includes the launch of two space laboratories -- effectively mini space-stations that can be manned on a temporary basis.
The next step will be to assemble and operate a permanent manned space station.
China will begin building a space station that is more economically efficient and uses more data than the current International Space Station (ISS), starting as early as 2017, chief engineer of China's manned space program Zhou Jianping told Xinhua on Thursday.
With the ISS set to retire in 2024, the Chinese space station will offer a promising alternative, and it will make China the only country to have a permanent space station after the ISS.
China's space lab Tiangong-2 enters in-orbit test track China's space lab Tiangong-2 has entered an in-orbit test track, the Beijing Aerospace Control Center said Friday.
"Tiangong-2 is in good condition currently, and its sub-systems are operating smoothly," said Chen Xianfeng, an expert with the center.
After entering the in-orbit test track, ground operators will test the stability of its sub-systems and carry out a series of space science experiments.
China successfully launched Tiangong-2 from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwest Gobi desert late Thursday.
China Exclusive: World's first space cold atom clock
The cylinder-shaped black object bears no resemblance to any ordinary clock, but it is one of the most advanced timepieces ever.
It was sent to space with the Space Laboratory of China's Tiangong-2 on Thursday, becoming the first ever cold atom clock working in space.
"This clock is so accurate that it should not lose one second in 30 to 300 million years in space," says Liu Liang, professor and director of the Key Laboratory of Quantum Optics, Shanghai Institute of Optics and Fine Mechanics, Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Unlike ordinary clocks, the timekeeping device is based on atomic physics.
And unlike the most atomic clocks, this clock uses more advanced "cold atom" technology, ensuring its ultra precision.
A mechanical watch loses almost one second a day; a quartz watch loses about one second every 10 days; the hydrogen atomic clock loses about one second over millions of years; the cold atom clock exceeds all in accuracy, Liu says.
Scientists attribute its accuracy to the microgravity environment in space as well as the coldness of the atoms the clock uses.
Under microgravity conditions, the cold atoms, pushed by lasers, perform a uniform motion in a straight line. By observing their performance, scientists get more precise atomic clock signal than under the gravity conditions on Earth.
Moreover, the laser cooling technology helps to eliminate the influence of atomic thermal motion on the clock's performance.
"Though molecules and atoms can't be seen in a room, they are actually moving at high-speed, and the speed is equivalent to temperature," Liu explains.
"We use laser cooling technology to slow down the atoms to a temperature that a refrigerator could never reach, so they nearly stay still," Liu says. "By observing the almost static atoms we make our measurements more precise."
Scientists believe that putting such a clock in space will help set a time standard to synchronize other atomic clocks in space more precisely.
"A more accurate clock system in space will benefit us on Earth," Liu says, citing possible substantial improvements in navigation and positioning accuracy.
Scientists say the development of cold atom technology could also make many experiments possible, such as deep space navigation and positioning, dark matter probes, and even gravitational wave exploration.
"A lot of research is based on our measurement of time and space. If we could detect subtle changes in time and space, we could make discoveries beyond the range of existing technology," Liu says.
"In the future, there will be more accurate clocks than this cold atom clock and our ultimate goal is to make a clock that will never be a second fast or slow over the life of the universe."
China to conduct brain-computer interaction experimentson Tiangong-2
China on Spet.15 launches space lab Tiangong-2 into space, paving the way for apermanent space station the country plans to build around 2022.(Photo/Xinhua)
Tiangong-2, China’s first space lab in a real sense, was successfully launched into space onSept. 15. A brain-computer interaction test system, developed by Tianjin University andinstalled in the lab, will conduct a series of experiments in space.
Ming Dong, the leader of the research team in charge of the brain-computer test system, said that brain-computer interaction will eventually be the highest form of human-machine communication. China will conduct the first ever space brain-machineinteraction experiments, ahead even of developed countries.
The brain-computer interaction test system in Tiangong-2 boasts 64 national patents. Theresearch team has long been devoted to the research of brain-computer interactions, previously developing two idiodynamic artificial neuron robotic systems that can help withthe rehabilitation of stroke patients.
The brain-computer interaction technology will also help Tiangong-2 astronauts to moreeasily accomplish their assigned tasks.
For instance, Ming explained that brain-computer interaction can transfer the astronauts' thoughts into operations, while at the same time monitoring their neurological function.
Now, Chinese vintners have a new destination in their sights: outer space.
When China’s newest space lab, Tiangong-2, blasted off last week its cargo reportedly included a selection of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and pinot noir vines.
“Chinese scientists hope that growing wine in space will trigger mutations in the vines that may make them more suitable for the harsh climate in some of the China’s emerging vineyard regions,” reported DecanterChina.com, a bilingual website about the local wine industry.
Freezing temperatures and unfavourable soil are among the most serious challenges facing wine producers in places such as Ningxia, an impoverished region at the heart of China’s nascent wine industry with punishing -25C winters.
Decanter said researchers hoped exposure to “space radiation” might trigger genetic changes in the vines that would help them “evolve new resistance to coldness, drought and viruses”.
The website said the vines were sourced from a nursery near Ningxia’s Helan mountain, a region local politicians tout as China’s Bordeaux.
After returning to earth the samples will undergo tests and be compared to other vines in order to find the most “suitable mutation”.
The Asian giant now consumes more red wine than any other country and has more vineyards than France. Estates are popping up from the frosty northeastern province of Liaoning to the scorching deserts of Xinjiang.
“The best Chinese wine I’ve ever tasted in my life is produced just outside of Beijing,” Fongyee Walker, a China-based wine specialist, said in a recent interview. “Beautiful wine... Blind tasting you wouldn’t even know they were Chinese.”
Walker, the director of Beijing’s Dragon Phoenix Wine Consulting, said that for wine drinking to really take off in China it needed to lose its aura of pomposity.
“I grew up eating Chinese food and I grew up drinking wine and I came here and was like: ‘Why does no-one just drink wine with jaozi [dumplings]?’” said Walker, who recently became mainland China’s first Master of Wine.
“So much of it is that myth of: ‘You have to be dressed up and you have to use a corkscrew and you have to do this and you have to do that,’” she added. “And I said, ‘Look, you can drink your wine from a beer glass and you can eat it with zhajiangmian [noodles] on the street corner.’ It’s a liquid for goodness sake! Get over it.”
On top of their wine-related research, Xinhua, Beijing’s official news wire, said astronauts would use the Tiangong space lab to “carry out key experiments related to in-orbit equipment repairs, aerospace medicine, space physics and biology, such as quantum key distribution, atomic space clocks and solar storm research”.
Quelle: the guardian
Scientific experiment apparatuses on Tiangong-2 put into operation
Scientific apparatus carried by Tiangong-2 began operational at around 6:41 p.m. Thursday Beijing Time after being on standby mode for nearly seven days since the space lab entered its preset orbit on Sept. 15.
"Most of the scientific payload will be put into operation in the next 30 hours," said Guo Lili, director with the payload operation and application center at the Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Nearly 100 ground operators, including staff from the operation and application center, payload developers and subscribers to related applications, are coordinating in the operation.
The space lab of Tiangong-2 will dock with the Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft later this year and the country's first cargo space ship Tianzhou-1 in 2017, according to experts.
Its predecessor Tiangong-1, which was launched in 2011 and docked with the Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spaceships, was mainly used to verify technology involved in space docking and serve as a simple platform for a number of scientific experiments, said Wu Ping, deputy director of China's manned space engineering office.
In comparison, Tiangong-2 hosts many more experiments and is taken as China's first space lab "in the strict sense."
Its payloads include POLAR, a collaboration between Swiss, Polish and Chinese institutions to study gamma ray bursts, and a cold atomic space clock, which scientists say only loses one second in about 30 million years.
Also piggybacking on the Tiangong-2 launch is a robotic arm that can be used for on-orbit repairs, and a micro satellite that will orbit close to the space lab and snap on to Tiangong-2 and the visiting Shenzhou-11 spacecraft crew.
Tiangong-2 space lab enters preset orbit for docking with manned spacecraft
BEIJING, Chinese scientists on Sunday maneuvered the country's Tiangong-2 space lab to a preset orbit 393 kilometers above Earth's surface, in preparation for a planned docking with the Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft set to launch next month.
Tiangong-2, which blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on the back of a Long March-2F T2 rocket on Sept. 15, has already gone through about nine days of on-orbit testing before Sunday's maneuver, according to Li Jian, deputy head of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center.
"All test results suggest the space lab is in good condition," Li said.
Earlier reports said China's future space station, which the country plans to put into service around 2022, will also be orbiting the Earth at approximately the same height - 393 kilometers above ground.
The Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft is expected to carry two astronauts into space to dock with the Tiangong-2 in October. The astronauts will work in the lab for 30 days before returning to Earth.
Li said the docking will be the country's first-ever simulation of future space station docking technologies, which will see the manned spacecraft "catching up with the space station using its own space maneuvering capacities."
In April 2017, China's first space cargo ship Tianzhou-1, which literally means heavenly vessel, will also be sent into orbit to dock with the space lab, providing it with fuel and other supplies.