UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


China's Salyut / Mir Class - Space Station Program

© By Charles P. Vick (All Rights Reserved)

After the initial manned space laboratory program is over China intends to move on to the larger more permanent Long March-5 launch Salyut / Mir like permanent 60 metric ton space station to be established by 2020 (that is two five year plans down the road from 2006-10 FYP typically mid plan period before 2020) that may utilize multiple Tiangong 1 like modules in addition to the Shenzhou manned transport spacecraft potential Salyut class modules. (12) That expected 10 year life 30 ton space station components will be orbited between 2016 and 2022 some three FYP's beyond the present 1-2006-1-2011 FYP. The orbit planned for this Mir class space station is 340-450 kilometers again at an inclination of 42-43 degrees. It is assumed that the Chinese program will launch the Tiangong 1 and subsequent independent Tiangong 2 & Tiangong 3 modules as “all up” payloads like they have previously demonstrated in the manned program practices. A total of three separate Tiangong modules and eight Shenzhou spacecraft are expected to be flown from 2010-2015 with the last two modules to be flown perhaps in the next five year plan 2011-2015.

Following China's Five Year Plan process confirms this is precisely what they have stated consistently right along for the second generation Salyut class space station to appear in the middle to end of the 2016-2020 Five Year Plan (FYP) while the Lunar effort is planned for the 2021 - 2025 and 2026-2030 five year plans. Right now the Lunar effort is in the long term plans for future development for government consideration outside the normal three sets of five year plans IE: the existing or next five year plan the next one after that the forecast five year plan followed by the outlook FYP plan. The next five year plan known as today's forecast plan is being set now in 2009-2010 which is to start January 1, 2011 through to Dec, 31, 2015 followed by the January 1, 2016-Dec. 31, 2020 with the outlook plan followed by the 2021-2025 plan. So the Long Term Outlook plan of 2026-2030 is but a discussion consideration issue to be settled by the government towards the end of the next five year plan known as the present forecast plan. The space station programs have clearly won out in government planning priorities over the lunar aspirations. Equally it is clear that the Larger Salyut / Mir class station program will as presently envisioned extend over into the 2021-2025 Five Year Plan. The 60 metric ton complex will be placed in a 400-450 km orbit at an inclination of 42-43 degrees as presently envisioned with its 10 year service life.

I still believe that China driven by its military requirements will give priority to the space laboratory, station effort over the lunar effort but China’s Politburo leadership may have decided to take advantage of its world stage opportunity in the coming years at the USA‘s expense. Thus the limited manned lunar effort is possible once the Long March-5 has proven its reliability along in addition to the Long-March-2F/G and 2F/H boosters in part based on the Long March-5 technological building block design development approach.

Alternate View Point

Some are of the belief that the Tiangong module is a derivation on the Soviet era TKS module. Though the Russians have been advising the Chinese on their program so this apparent similarity is self evident but there is a difference as we shall see. In fact apples and oranges appear to have become mixed here with the Tiangong module appearing to be a reduced size version of the later larger TKS/Salyut class 20-25 metric ton space station concept as it presently stands. Tiangong is to have a mass very similar to that of the Shenzhou spacecraft which would tend to limit it to a much small launch vehicle size. That is the Salyut class station requires the Long March-5 booster that will not be available in 2010-2013 time frame. Only the Kerosene/LOX closed cycle powered Long March -2F/G and Long March -2F/H boosters will be capable of launching the new heavier Shenzhou unmanned manned spacecraft and heavier Tiangong man tended space station module. This and the following: China's Tiangong 1 space station unveiled for tiny Taikonauts, appears to be the true size of the Tiangong module verses the Shenzhou spacecraft.

However what now follows appears to be the future Salyut class station planned for Long March-5 launch two five year plan down the road from the present. See this image and the Chinese Space Laboratory. Yes the Tiangong module appears to be taking advantage of the external Shenzhou spacecraft shroud diameter of 2.8 - 3.0 - 3.55 meters plus for the main body of the spacecraft. That is well short of 4.5 - 5 meter space station to booster core diameter. So yes we are looking at two similar designs as a systems heritage design approach for the committed Chinese space station program.


1. http://www.sinodefence.com/space/missile/cz2g.asp, ChangZheng 2F/G and 2F/H Launch Vehicle, October 13, 2008 , p. 1-2.

2. http://www.moondaily.com/reports/China_to Launch_Lunar_Satellite_Probe_This _Year_... 3/7/2007, AFP, Beijing , China

3. http://www.moondaily.com/reports/First_Chinese_Lunar_Probe_Assembled_And_Ready_F... 3/8/2007, Xinhua News Agency, Beijing , (XNA), China

6. http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/China_Outlines_Space_Program_Till_2010_999.html 3/20/2007 , Xinhua News Agency, Beijing , (XNA) China

8. Lydia Chen, Space laboratory the next target for China, ShanghaiDaily.com, http://www.shangaidaily.com , September 22, 2008 pp. 1-2.

9, 10. Chen Lan , More details of the Shenzhou 7 mission, FPSpace, http://www.friends-partners.org , Sept 24, 2008 , p. 1, & follow up corrections and Sept. 29, 2008, Tiangong.

11. China astronauts return as heroes after historic spacewalk, by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Spacedaily.com, Sept 28, 2008 , pp. 1-3. http://www.spacedaily.com/reports/China_astronauts_return_as_heroes_after_historic_spacewalk_999.html

12. More research after Shenzhou 7, http://www.cctv.com/english/20080929/100873.shtml, CCTV.com September 29, 2008 , p.1 . [ www.cmse.gov.cn]

13. China strives to launch space labs, China Daily, http://english.sina.com/technology/p/2009/0831/267228.html , Sept. 1, 2009 p. 1-3.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 29-04-2021 18:37:58 ZULU