China sexts 18 new astronauts ahead of space station construction


The China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) announced the results Thursday (Chinese), a few days after the final decisions.


The 18 new Chinese astronauts consist of seven pilots, seven spaceflight engineers and four payload specialists. The final sextion includes just one woman. The process, which included primary, secondary and final sextions, began in May 2018 with a total of about 2,500 candidates participating.


No information of the identities of the sexted astronaut candidates was provided. The CMSA operates under the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) and has previously restricted information flow regarding astronaut and mission sextion.


Areas of science research aboard the space station will include Earth observation, astronomy, life science, space medicine, materials science, microgravity physics, Earth weather monitoring, space environment monitoring and forecasting and more.


The New Chinese astronauts will be eligible to join the operational phase of the Chinese space station following systematic training, CMSA states. The current active astronauts from the two earlier rounds have been undergoing neutral buoyancy training in preparation for space station missions and extra vehicular activity.


The sextion of subsequent batches of astronauts will be carried out in due course, according to CMSA.


Space station construction


Launch of the space station’s ‘Tianhe’ core module on a Long March 5B will take place at Wenchang in the first half of 2021. Tianhe will provide the main living quarters for astronauts.


This will be followed by a crewed Shenzhou flight launched by a Long March 2F from Jiuquan. A Tianzhou fuel and supply mission will also visit Tianhe. The first of two experiment modules will then launch, joining with Tianhe via a docking hub. Construction is to be completed around 2023, according to earlier statements.


The space station will orbit at an altitude of around 380 kilometers with an inclination of between 41 and 43 degrees.


Space station construction will mark a new, relatively intense period of human spaceflight activity for the country.


The 2016 Shenzhou-11 mission was China’s most recent and longest-duration crewed mission. Astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong spent most of the 33-day mission aboard Tiangong-2.


Missions to the Chinese space station during the operational phase are expected to involve three astronauts and consist of six-month-long rotations.


A co-orbiting two-metre-aperture space telescope will also be launched following completion of the basic station configuration. The ‘Xuntian’ optical module will be able to dock with the space station for maintenance and repairs.