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China's new crew spacecraft looks like it could dock with the International Space Station

The docking system of the prototype Chinese next-generation crewed spacecraft.
The docking system of the prototype Chinese next-generation crewed spacecraft.
(Image: © SAST/CASC)

A next-generation crew spacecraft that China is preparing for a flight test this spring appears to be capable of docking with the International Space Station (ISS). 

An image posted by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST) shows the new spacecraft’s docking system, which appears compatible with the International Docking System Standard (IDSS). 

NASA, the European Space Agency and Russia's federal space agency, known as Roscosmos, use IDSS-compatible systems or adapters. These are in use on the ISS to facilitate rendezvous and docking with spacecraft. 

Related: Photos of China's new spacecraft to take astronauts to the moon

The new spacecraft is designed to boost China's capabilities in sending humans into orbit, reduce costs through partial reusability and allow astronauts to survive the radiation environment and high-speed reentries of deep-space missions.

The as-yet-unnamed spacecraft is 28.9 feet (8.8 meters) long with a mass at liftoff of 23.8 tons (21.6 metric tons). It will be capable of carrying six astronauts, or three astronauts and 1,100 lbs. (500 kilograms) of cargo to China’s planned space station.

A prototype of the next-gen crewed spacecraft is being prepared for a test flight at the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center. Launch on a Long March 5B rocket is expected in mid- to late April.

The IDSS docking mechanism is androgynous. A first such system was developed and used for the 1975 Apollo-Soyuz Test Project, meaning neither the U.S. nor Soviet spacecraft had "male" or "female" mechanisms.

China has demonstrated rendezvous and docking capabilities with Shenzhou crewed spacecraft and the Tiangong-1 and Tiangong-2 space labs, as well as with the Tianzhou cargo spacecraft.

The rendezvous systems on spacecraft, which facilitate the maneuvering and matching of vectors and velocities for close approaches, may, however, need to be adapted to be compatible.

But even if the new Chinese crewed spacecraft can technically rendezvous and dock with the ISS, it is currently not possible politically. 

While China cooperates with ESA and Russia, the United States has effectively excluded China from the ISS project. The US government in 2011 introduced text into legislation, referred to as the "Wolf Amendment," that severely restricts opportunities for NASA and other agencies from bilateral cooperation with entities linked to the Chinese government.

The test flight of the new spacecraft will also test China's Long March 5B launch vehicle. If successful, the new rocket will subsequently be used to launch the 20-metric-ton modules of the Chinese Space Station.

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  • ShmuelGold
    Good job, China! Too bad the Americans are just not ready to work with the Chinese on this. I can understand that especially now (March 30, 2020, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic) it's politically not feasible, but I do hope that in a few months or a year it will be. If we want to seriously expand in space, mankind must work together. Don't forget that the ISS is just that - International. The U.S. could not have done it on its own. It is obvious that the Chinese have strong capabilities in space exploration.
    Reply
  • DocDrew63
    Sorry, I think it will take quite a while for the Free Nations on Earth to warm up to the Chinese Communists. Their lies and misinformation caused delays and needless suffering.

    Their suborning of the World Health Organization was part of a Premeditated and Calculated Plan to spread disinformation to those of us providing healthcare.

    Then they top it all off with a blatant slander against the United States Armed Forces. Accusing them of starting the Plague in Wuhan.

    Their blatant lack of concern for people of other nations around the globe is worthy of nothing more than Diplomatic and Financial Sanctions on the Communist Chinese Nation from the Entire International Community. At least from the Free Nations of Earth.

    A Good Start would be FULL Diplomatic Recognition of the Freely Elected Government of the Republic of China on Formosa.
    Reply
  • cat5expat
    Great! We don't want another wuhan aka CCP virus inside the spacecraft
    Reply
  • stringed
    ShmuelGold said:
    Good job, China! Too bad the Americans are just not ready to work with the Chinese on this. I can understand that especially now (March 30, 2020, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic) it's politically not feasible, but I do hope that in a few months or a year it will be. If we want to seriously expand in space, mankind must work together. Don't forget that the ISS is just that - International. The U.S. could not have done it on its own. It is obvious that the Chinese have strong capabilities in space exploration.

    Perhaps if China wouldn't spend its time developing killer satellites that blow up other satellites in orbit, exclude Americans from its space explorations and data-sharing, and in general beg borrow and steal intelligence from the free world, the USA would long ago have invited China to participate in joint exploits.

    And, with respect to your silly comment about the USA being unable to do it "on its own," the US built, launched and operated space station Skylab by itself from 1973 to 1979 during China's Cultural Revolution, while Chairman Mao oversaw the genocide of somewhere between 25 and 70 million Chinese.

    Please inform yourself about who was willing to work with whom, and who shrouds its space program in secrecy and militarism.
    Reply
  • Torbjorn Larsson
    DocDrew63 said:
    Sorry, I think it will take quite a while for the Free Nations on Earth to warm up to the Chinese Communists. Their lies and misinformation caused delays and needless suffering.

    Their suborning of the World Health Organization

    Your conspiracy theory fantasies are helping no one.
    Reply
  • Torbjorn Larsson
    stringed said:
    Perhaps if China wouldn't spend its time developing killer satellites that blow up other satellites in orbit, exclude Americans from its space explorations and data-sharing, and in general beg borrow and steal intelligence from the free world, the USA would long ago have invited China to participate in joint exploits.

    The ISS was paid for by an international effort. Possibly US could have done it on their own, but we don't know that.

    China is no better or worse than the Russia the current US president loves to fondle, except that it is set to become the leading economic superpower, which may or may not be useful.
    Maybe the bungled COVID-19 response in US did the trick? We'll see. And if it did, maybe US will start to collaborate with the new bully on the school yard.
    Reply
  • DocDrew63
    Torbjorn Larsson said:
    Your conspiracy theory fantasies are helping no one.

    Try checking out sources besides CBSNBCABCCNNWaPoNYT

    https://dailycaller.com/2020/03/18/china-corrupted-world-health-organization/
    https://thefederalist.com/2020/03/17/u-s-funds-world-health-organization-that-boot-licks-china-with-deadly-results/
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AwFTZawOc9k

    https://www.foxnews.com/world/coronavirus-china-who-chief-relationship-trouble

    The Chinese Communists have been a Bad Actor on the World Scene for Decades.
    Dancing with the Devil benefits no one!
    Reply
  • DocDrew63
    Torbjorn Larsson said:
    The ISS was paid for by an international effort. Possibly US could have done it on their own, but we don't know that.

    China is no better or worse than the Russia the current US president loves to fondle, except that it is set to become the leading economic superpower, which may or may not be useful.
    Maybe the bungled COVID-19 response in US did the trick? We'll see. And if it did, maybe US will start to collaborate with the new bully on the school yard.

    You have a problem with seeing the difference between Good and Evil in modern history.

    www.nationalreview.com%2Fmagazine%2F2018%2F05%2F28%2Fchina-uyghur-oppression-new-gulag%2F

    https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/02/28/a-summer-vacation-in-chinas-muslim-gulag/
    www.c-span.org%2Fvideo%2F%3F107137-1%2Fforced-abortions-sterilization-china


    Too many thousands of others too possibly post.
    Which is easy to see why you stand for nothing and fall for everything.
    Reply
  • egribble
    Admin said:
    A next-generation crew spacecraft that China is preparing for a flight test this spring appears to be capable of docking with the International Space Station.

    China’s new crew spacecraft looks like it could dock with the International Space Station : Read more
    I would like to put a bomb under it after what China has done to the rest of the world.
    Reply
  • foxpup
    ShmuelGold said:
    Good job, China! Too bad the Americans are just not ready to work with the Chinese on this. I can understand that especially now (March 30, 2020, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic) it's politically not feasible, but I do hope that in a few months or a year it will be. If we want to seriously expand in space, mankind must work together. Don't forget that the ISS is just that - International. The U.S. could not have done it on its own. It is obvious that the Chinese have strong capabilities in space exploration.
    ShmuelGold is a CCP supported communist troll, supporting their politics so he can get whatever bone they throw at him. Good Dog ShmuelGold. Enjoy your biquit. It is good for China to be working on the standard docking port. Some day "Poohbear and friends" aka "Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party" will be out of power and people will actually want to connect thier spacecraft to thiers, but not until then if anyone has any brains.
    Reply