Currently known as Tiangong, or “heavenly palace,” (Chinese officials are asking the public for suggestions for a permanent name) the 66-ton space station will support a crew of three and host two laboratories for astronomy, microgravity, and biological experiments. And, depending on the politics and economics surrounding the ISS, it could be the only space station in orbit in the decade following 2020 (the ISS is scheduled to be decommissioned then, though its life could be extended to 2028), reports Popular Science.
The space station, whose name will be picked by a public competition, will consist of a core module with two laboratory units, according to The People's Daily. It will be around one-fifth of the length of the International Space Station, currently the only other space station in orbit, and one-seventh of the weight, according to specifications released by China's Manned Space Engineering Office.
"The 60-ton space station is rather small compared to the International Space Station (419 tons), and Russia's Mir Space Station (137 tons) which served between 1996 and 2001," said Pang Zhihao, a researcher and deputy editor-in-chief of the monthly magazine, Space International. "But it is only the world's third multi-module space station, which usually demands much more complicated technology than a single-module space lab," he said.
They’ve also extended an invite to the world’s scientists saying “[they] will adhere to the policy of opening up to the outside world, Scientists of all countries are welcome to participate in space science experimental research on China's space station," reports TheVine.