Friday, September 3, 2021

China seeks scientists for spacecraft project that could measure 1 km

 As China advances in its plans to advance space exploration and carry out long-term manned missions, the country is working on designing a spacecraft that could reach 1 km in length.  This spacecraft would have a great capacity to store resources, allowing it to stay in orbit for long periods and, thus, contributing to space exploration.  The idea has been around for a few years, and now China's National Natural Science Foundation is looking for scientists to figure out how to bring such a massive structure into orbit.

 The gigantic spacecraft proposal was presented by China's National Natural Science Foundation, a research agency managed by the Ministry of Science and Technology, during the release of guidelines for the first group of large projects supported during the 14th Five-Year Plan.  The group has projects in different areas that will receive US$ 2.3 million for their development;  all are extremely important, but what attracted the public's interest was this large spatial structure.

 The project guide describes that the giant spacecraft would have to be built using the modular structural design, with multiple launches and construction carried out directly in space, as it would be heavy and too big to be launched at once.  "[Such a ship] is a great equipment strategy for the future use of space resources, exploration of the mysteries of the universe and long-term stays in orbit," the project describes.  Now, the agency is looking for scientists to study the mechanics of the venture in a five-year project.

 For now, the project is still a "pre-research", that is, it is in a stage that involves several calculations and can take a long time to get off the ground.  Even so, some features can already be advanced: the supership would need a light structure, which reduces as much as possible the number of launches for construction and the costs involved.  In addition, the structure would have to have a controllable design, which allows for deformation and vibration control.

 According to the requirements, the cost of the project will be around 15 million yuan, and will have scientific objectives such as proposing a new theory for lighter structures, capable of meeting dynamics in orbit requirements, establishing a new model from coupling dynamics to the assembly process, evolution of the assembly process of large aerospace structures, among others.

 For now, this is an ambitious project as big as the size of the spacecraft it proposes, which doesn't necessarily mean it's impossible to carry out — after all, the International Space Station, which measures around 110 m, shows that large structures they can, yes, be mounted in orbit.  The orbital laboratory was built in partnership with 16 countries, and required 42 assembly flights;  according to NASA, most of them were made by space shuttles.

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