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Nations ask to play part in space lab

By ZHAO LEI in Zhuhai | China Daily | Updated: 2016-11-03 02:24

Many countries reach out as China prepares to put permanent station in service in 2022

Many nations have reached out to China, seeking to play a part in the country's future manned space station, a senior space industry official said Wednesday.

"We believe there is a wide range of fields suitable for such international collaboration and these prospective cooperation projects will have huge potential," said Fu Zhiheng, vice-president of China Great Wall Industry Corp, a State-owned enterprise that is the nation's only authorized firm for international space collaboration.

"In fact, we are in talks with some foreign countries in this regard," said Fu, who spoke with China Daily on the sidelines of the 11th China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition in Zhuhai of Guangdong province.

"My company's Manned Space Cooperation Center works with the China Manned Space Agency and has been pushing forward with related efforts," he said. Fu did not name any of the nations involved.

China will start launching parts of its permanent manned space station starting in 2018 and put the space station into service around 2022, according to previous reports.

It will consist of three parts — a core module attached to two space labs, each weighing about 20 metric tons. A scaled model of the space station is on display at the six-day air show that opened on Tuesday in Zhuhai.

Meanwhile, the heavy-lift carrier rocket developed to launch the space station's modules, the Long March 5, is standing at Wenchang Satellite Launch Center in Hainan province waiting for its first trip into space.

China's manned space station is likely to become the world's only space station after the International Space Station is retired in 2024, Chinese space officials have said.

The International Space Station has worked in part as an orbiting laboratory for multidisciplinary research in areas including physics, medicine and space sciences.

China currently is conducting some cooperation projects with foreign space agencies, mainly concerning scientific and technological experiments onboard China's Shenzhou XI spacecraft and Tiangong II space laboratory, according to Fu. He did not say which agencies are involved.

Two Chinese astronauts are now aboard the combined Shenzhou XI-Tiangong II on a monthlong mission in space that started in mid-October.

Fu also noted that his company has received requests from other nations that hope China will help them train astronauts. He did not name the nations.

Yang Liwei, deputy director of China Manned Space Agency, previously said that China is open to cooperation with other nations in its future manned space station.

Chinese scientists have designed a number of devices or instruments in the planned space station that can be used for international cooperative projects. They also developed adapters to permit docking with other nations' spaceships, according to Yang, China's first astronaut in space.

In addition, he said China would be happy to help train astronauts from other countries and organizations and would also be glad to provide rides to foreign astronauts. Foreign astronauts who will have undergone training by Chinese experts will be welcome to work in the space station, he added.

 "The result of including foreign participants in our space programs is not only that these nations can send their people to space but also that they will be able to develop their own space projects," Yang said.

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