China To Launch Its First Space Station This Week, Called Heavenly Harmony

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China plans to launch the core module to its own space station this Thursday if launch conditions are good.  The Tianhe module, aka Heavenly Harmony, is set to launch from from the Wenchang Launch Center using a Long March 5B rocket and is the first of 11 missions to assemble three modules in space for China’s space station.

Of the 11 launches, four are cargo supply missions, four more will have crews on board to do the work and 2 more launches will contain the other modules of the space station.  When completed, it will be about the size of the American Skylab space station from the 1970’s and the Soviet/Russian Mir station which was launched in 1986.  The station is expected to be completed by 2022.

China’s previous attempts to launch experimental modules for a space station resulted in one burning up during an uncontrolled loss of orbit and the second successfully launched and de-orbited in 2018.  China’s quest to built its own space station is a result of it being excluded from participating in the International Space Station due to the U.S. being uneasy with China’s space program largely being secretive and too close to China’s military.