A group of Chinese astronauts is training for four manned missions this year as the country finishes building its first permanent orbital station, it was reported Thursday.
The station’s core module, called Tianhe, would be ready for launch in April, according to the Chinese National Space Administration and foreign observers. The huge Long March-5B Y2 rocket and its payload have been at the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site in the tropical province of Hainan for assembly and testing since last month.
That launch would be the first of 11 missions over the next two years to complete construction of the station by the end of 2022. Two more modules will be launched later along with four Tianzhou cargo missions and the four Shenzhou manned missions.
The ANE gave a list of 12 astronauts training for the manned missions, including veterans of previous Shenzhou flights, as well as rookies and women.
According to the information, there will be up to three crew members at a time in the core module, which has ports for scientific modules that will arrive later.
China has already launched two smaller experimental space stations to test rendezvous, docking and life on board. Once completed, the permanent space station will allow stays of up to six months, just like the International Space Station.
The Chinese station will have an expected life span of 15 years. The ISS is nearing the end of its useful life.