To ensure effective space missions, use of the right transportation technologies is critical. China has stepped up efforts to enhance its space transportation technologies and is applying artificial intelligence (AI) in creating and testing new space transportation products.
AI will play a key role in future space exploration. [Photo/IC]
Wang Xiaojun, vice president of the International Astronautical Federation (IAF) Bureau's Societies and Museums department and president of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, reviewed developments and the latest progress in China's space transportation system, and clarified the future prospects and challenges of the industry in the paper "Prospects for the Future Development of China's Space Transportation System" published in the journal Space: Science & Technology (Space Science & Technology).
China became the second country to launch an unmanned exploration on Mars in 2021 and the country plans to complete sample collection on the planet and bring the reentry capsule back to Earth in the 2030s.
To implement more space development plans, the country's space agencies have been pioneering innovations for the past six decades. The country has realized offshore carrier rocket launches and sent multiple satellites into selected orbits with a single rocket and has also conducted explorations on the moon and Mars.
It's worth noting that the country's Long March 11 carrier rocket, the latest type of launch vehicle, has a launch preparation time of less than 24 hours, the shortest of its kind. The rocket is expected to contribute to fast transportation for construction of the space station.
What's more, the country sent the Shenzhou 13 manned spaceship into space by a Long March F Y13 carrier rocket on Oct 16, which ended the key technology verification phase of the country's space station.
A Long March-2F rocket, carrying the Shenzhou 13 spacecraft and three astronauts, is launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China's Northwestern Gansu province on Oct 16, 2021. [Photo/IC]
China is also concerned about sustainable development of the environment.
Chinese space agencies upgraded the launch systems to use conventional low-temperature liquid propellants and electricity. Innovations have also been made to save energy while improving security.
Meanwhile, China highlighted reusable technologies to reduce residual waste of space missions. The technologies at the same time are expected to give the country a leading role in the rapidly developing commercial space tourism industry.
Reusable technologies are expected to contribute to development of the commercial space tourism industry. [Photo/IC]
In terms of deep space missions, Chinese scientists are working on development of highly durable and light metal composites to improve energy efficiency of launch vehicles. Such materials are necessary for both stellar-class and nuclear-powered spacecraft, the only two vehicle types capable of exploring areas beyond the solar system.
The paper also points out that scientists are applying AI to the latest achievements in aerospace engineering, intending to develop smart technologies that can predict, identify and correct errors in space missions.
China is also building a new type of platform based on big data and cloud computing, aiming to improve remote control and optimize spacecraft communications. Automation of production, testing, launches, flight operations, spaceship reconstruction and connection of multiple vehicles is also underway.
China plans to invest more in development of the fields mentioned above in the 2020s to 2040s and will build a manned lunar base station and a space solar power station to better serve the space station.
The country has made leap-frogging developments in its space transportation system for the past dozens of years and will achieve breakthroughs in the upcoming decades.
Space: Science & Technology (Space Science & Technology is a comprehensive high-level international English science and technology journal jointly established by the Beijing Institute of Technology, the China Academy of Space Technology and the American Association for the Advancement of Science/Science. It is the first partner journal in the field of aerospace since Science was founded in 1880.
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