China is working on a spacecraft that would be so big that it would cover entire kilometers, the state-owned South China Morning Post reported.
The project still has many years to go, but China’s National Natural Science Foundation is asking scientists for ideas for building this massive orbital structure.
And although it seems crazy to do something like this, the latest advances in the Asian giant’s space program show that it is possible, and that Earth’s orbit is the only place where such an undertaking could really happen.
The gigantic structure’s purpose would be to provide a platform to spend more time in space. It is one of five foundation-funded projects, each of which will receive about $2.3 million, according to the SCMP.
“A spacecraft of this type is an important strategic aerospace equipment for the future use of space resources, the exploration of the mysteries of the universe and the long-term stay in orbit”, says a summary of the aforementioned foundation project by the medium.
Obviously, launching a spacecraft of that size would be impossible with a single rocket. The scheme suggests sending separate modules into space and then assembling the massive structure in orbit. One of the main goals of the project will be to keep the mass low, ensuring that nothing breaks on the way to orbit.
By parts It’s an enormously ambitious project that, at least in 2021, is more or less science fiction. But if we are guided by history, mounting larger and larger structures in orbit is indeed a possibility, as the International Space Station shows. Before embarking on the new project, China was already busy working on its Tiangong modular space station.
The first main module is already in orbit, hosting four Chinese astronauts, with many additional modules and crew members coming soon. Tiangong will have an expected mass of around 100 tonnes, about a quarter of the ISS. It goes without saying that scaling several orders of magnitude will be quite a challenge.