Context: China plans to expand its space station to six modules from three in coming years, offering astronauts from other nations an alternative platform for near-Earth missions as the NASA-led International Space Station nears the end of its lifespan.
Tiangong Space Station (TSS)
- TSS is a permanently crewed space station constructed by China and operated by China Manned Space Agency.
- Placed in: Low Earth orbit between 340 and 450 km above the Earth’s surface.
- Operational lifetime: More than 15 years.
- It has been fully operational since late 2022, hosting a maximum of three astronauts.
- TSS will weigh 180 metric tons after its expansion to six modules.
International Space Station (ISS)
- ISS is a modular space station (habitable artificial satellite) and the single largest man-made structure in the low Earth orbit.
- Launched in 1998, it is a multinational collaborative project involving five participating space agencies:
- NASA (United States)
- Roscosmos (Russia)
- JAXA (Japan)
- ESA (Europe)
- CSA (Canada)
- The ownership and use of the space station are established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements.
- It circles the Earth in roughly 92 minutes and completes 15.5 orbits per day, hosting a maximum of seven astronauts.
- It serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which scientific research is conducted in astrobiology, astronomy, meteorology, physics, and other fields.
- NASA intends to keep operating the ISS until the end of 2030, after which the ISS would be crashed into Point Nemo over the South Pacific Oceanic Uninhabited Area (SPOUA).