China plans to build “giant infrastructures” a kilometer wide in orbit, including solar power plants, resorts, gas stations and even asteroid mining facilities.
The National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) has announced a new five-year plan, guiding researchers to develop technologies and techniques that will build giant structures in Earth orbit.
The structures will require lightweight materials to allow larger objects to enter orbit using existing rocket and orbit assembly and control technologies.
The Chinese government has said there is an “urgent need” for massive projects in space that require large spacecraft to keep them in orbit.
The first such project will be a kilometer-wide solar power plant that will send electricity to a base station in China to power the grid in 2035.
China plans to build “giant infrastructures” a kilometer wide in orbit, including solar power plants, resorts, gas stations and even asteroid mining facilities. It could also include space stations such as the International Space Station, which was built over decades of new units.
China sent its first crew to the Tiangong Space Station earlier this year. A modular platform to be built in the coming years with new integrations built on Earth and sent into space.
The development of Chinese space projects
space solar energy
The Chinese government recently opened a research center to study solar energy from space.
They plan to build a one kilometer wide solar power plant and use microwaves to send signals back to Earth.
They expect to have a megawatt facility in orbit and up and running by 2050.
32 ft space telescope
Several departments of the Chinese government are working on a new “in orbit” telescope project.
It is said to have a massive 32-foot aperture, more than twice the size of NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.
Tiangong space station
China launched the first module of its Tiangong space station earlier this year with plans for further expansion.
It is similar to the International Space Station but much smaller than the International Space Station with new units being added gradually over time.
These massive infrastructures could include space stations like the International Space Station, which was built in parts in orbit, with the latest module added earlier this year.
China already has its own space station traveling the planet, called Tiangong, which is occupied for the first time this year.
It plans to gradually expand its size over the next few years, with new research units and even a telescope.
It is not known if this will form the basis for a larger base of operations or if a new facility will be launched in the future.
The NSFC has not disclosed specific details about the mega infrastructure.
Some, like the space power station and the 32-foot giant aperture telescope, are already in the works, but new details relate to research directions.
This was a document released by the NSFC on guidelines for access to $2.3 million in research.
It encourages researchers to focus on implementing these large-scale projects.
More specifically, it directs them to focus on developing “strategic aerospace equipment important for the future use of space resources.”
He also wants experts to focus on “exploring the secrets of the universe and long-term survival in orbit.”
The new project is not designed to put those structures into orbit, but to spend the next half-decade reducing the weight of spacecraft and materials.
It would take several rocket launches to build something like a mining facility around an asteroid.
However, finding new materials that are lighter but more durable can reduce the number of trips and make them more profitable.
A study published in 2020 by the Chinese Academy of Sciences found that space construction has been key to the advancement of space technology.
“With the rapid development of space technology and the increasing demand for space missions, traditional methods of manufacturing, deploying and launching spacecraft have not been able to meet current needs,” the report stated.
“In-space assembly (ISA) technologies can be effectively adapted to assemble large space structures, improve spacecraft performance and reduce operating costs.”
The Chinese government plans to put a megawatt-scale solar power plant into orbit and return electricity to Earth for use in China’s power grid by 2050.
The report adds that this enables the creation of “fixed structures such as space infrastructure, fuel stations, space manufacturing facilities, space tourism complexes and the spacecraft of an asteroid mining station.”
But to get to this point, it is necessary to develop a series of new technologies, not only new materials, but advances in robotics and artificial intelligence.
Research funding proposals include orbital dynamics modeling and simulation to control the spatial aggregation process.
The Chinese government is expected to release about $2.3 million for five research projects to explore large orbital structures and how to make them viable.
The Chinese government has asked researchers to produce lighter materials that require fewer launches to build structures in Earth orbit in the future.
Other work developed by China includes a huge telescope project that will be built in space from transmitted parts of the Earth, in partnership with the University of Surrey in the UK, rather than on Earth and sent into orbit. completed.
Known as the Ultra Wide Aperture Orbit Assembly Project, the current focus is on how to automate intelligent in-orbit assembly.
It will have a 10-meter aperture, more than twice the size of the aperture of the NASA and European Space Agency’s James Webb Space Telescope, which is due to launch later this year.
The Chinese Academy of Aerospace Technology (CAST) is currently building a test facility in Chongqing, which will eventually receive the transmitted power from orbital solar power plants, with small-scale tests beginning next year.
Developed by the Orbital Assembly Corporation (OAC), the Voyager station could be operational by 2027, with infrastructure built into Earth orbit.
“As human space exploration continues to go beyond Earth’s orbit, the manufacture and assembly of large space structures in space is essential for sustainable human exploration,” said Chihui Xue, a robotics specialist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
Not only is China exploring these concepts, but a recent British government report indicated that the country is investing in its own space station solar power plant, and several private developers are working on space station concepts.
Among them, one was developed by the Orbital Assembly Corporation (OAC).
The Voyager station could be operational as early as 2027, with infrastructure built orbiting the Earth instead of the Earth and being charged.
It will have a series of capsules attached to the outside of the rotating ring and some of these capsules can be sold to NASA and ESA for space research.
China unveils plans to launch a mile-long fleet of solar panels into space to return power to Earth by 2035, and says the system could be as powerful as a nuclear power plant by 2050.
China plans to launch a one-kilometer-long fleet of solar panels into space by 2035 and return energy to Earth with the goal of achieving its carbon-neutral goal by 2060.
Reports suggest that once fully operational by 2050, the space solar panel will send an amount of electricity similar to that of a nuclear power plant into the grid.
The idea of a space force was first proposed by science fiction writer Isaac Asimov in 1941 and explored by several countries, including the United Kingdom and the United States.
Above Earth there are no clouds and no day or night to obstruct the sun’s rays, making the Solar Space Station a constant source of carbon-free energy.
However, the Chinese government appears ready to move from exploring the science and technology behind the idea to putting the system into practice.
In Chongqing, the Chinese government has inaugurated the new Beishan space solar power plant where it will begin testing at the end of the year, hoping to have a megawatt solar power plant operational by 2030.
It is not known how much it will cost to launch or operate the entire space power station, but it is expected to be operational by 2035 and to full capacity by 2050.
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