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China Is Now a Major Space Power

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The space program may also attach a robotic telescope to it in the future, although the station itself is not likely to grow much bigger, says Osburg. Tiangong’s T shape may limit expansion options, and so will other factors like the need to manage power usage and remove waste heat. (The ISS, which has a truss structure and huge solar arrays, underwent multiple expansions, though it also took many years and launches to put it all together.)

As with the ISS, China’s station will offer some opportunities for partnerships, through which other countries can send experiments, and perhaps later also astronauts, to Tiangong. It already has a Saudi Arabian experiment on board, and researchers from European institutions and other countries have proposed experiments on a wide range of topics, from gamma-ray bursts to space medicine and atomic clocks. Chinese commercial partners may also get involved by launching cargo missions. But unlike the ISS, which continually depends on the cooperation and support of its partners, China has different priorities for Tiangong, says Marissa Herron, a…

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