China Plans ‘Ultra-Large Spacecraft’ Spanning Miles

The National Natural Science Foundation of China has called on scientists to join a five-year project to study the mechanics of an “ultra-large spacecraft spanning kilometres”.

“[Such a spacecraft] is a major strategic aerospace equipment for the future use of space resources, exploration of the mysteries of the universe and staying in long-term orbit,” said an outline of the project published by the foundation – a basic research funding agency managed by the Ministry of Science and Technology.

According to the published outline, the modular spacecraft would have to be launched multiple times and assembled in space, because it would be too heavy and huge to be launched in one flight.

Researchers will be tasked with minimising the weight of the spacecraft to reduce the number of launches and construction costs. They should also ensure controllability of the structures to limit attitude drift, deformation and vibration during the assembly process, the outline said.

China has invested heavily in its space programme and in May became the second country to put a functional rover on Mars, two years after landing its first spacecraft on the far side of the moon.

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