China plans to launch the initial section of its second space laboratory in September 2016. It will be serviced by a robotic cargo spacecraft.
A robotic connection
A robotic spacecraft will deliver propellant, supplies, research facilities and repair equipment to the laboratory. How many crews will occupy the craft over what period of time was not revealed.
A cargo ship is scheduled for launch in the first half of 2017. It will test in-orbit propellant refueling technologies. In 2018, the core module for the future station will be put into orbit. Full operations are scheduled to start in 2022.
An international space station
The Chinese government has agreed to help finance non-Chinese payloads and experiments to be operated from China’s future space station through the United Nations. This is part of China’s attempt to internationalize the program, a senior Chinese space official told the U.N.
Addressing the U.N. Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space plenary conference June 14 in Vienna, Austria, Wu Ping, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency, stressed China’s openness to having non-Chinese experiments, payloads, astronauts, and even complete space station modules become part of the Chinese facility.