Firm gets ready for big-ticket missions

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The Chang'e 4 mission is scheduled for December. [Photo by Artist's Rendering/China Daily]

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp is working on multiple space programs that the government hopes could be completed in the next few years.

The largest and most important project is the construction of China's manned space station. According to the government's schedule, CASC will start constructing the nation's first manned space station around 2020. First, a Long March 5B heavy-lift rocket, which is being developed by engineers at the company, will put the station's core module into orbit that year. Next, about four manned space flights will be made to send astronauts to assemble the station.

The space station is expected to be fully operational around 2022 and is set to operate for at least 10 years. The multi-module spacecraft will be mainly composed of three parts - a core module attached to two space labs - having a combined weight of more than 90 metric tons.

In 2024, it will likely become the world's only space station, if the United States-led International Space Station is retired that year as planned.

On China's future lunar expeditions, CASC plans to launch the Chang'e 4 probe before the end of 2018 and land it on the far side of the moon, where no probe has landed and explored.

The Chang'e 4 mission will enable scientists to discover what they haven't known about the moon. They also can take advantage of the far side's shield against Earth's interference to make clearer observations into deep space, scientists at CASC explained.

After Chang'e 4, the company proposes to undertake the Chang'e 5 mission before the end of 2019 to bring lunar samples back to the Earth.

CASC has also begun to research a super-heavy carrier rocket with a lift off weight of 3,000 tons and capable of thrusting a 140-ton spacecraft to a low Earth orbit. The rocket will be tasked with fulfilling China's manned missions to the moon, said company executives.

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