China Wants to Build a Mega Spaceship That’s Nearly a Mile Long


7 Sep 2021

The National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) has recently published a five-year plan articulating the "urgent need" to invest in studies on space exploration equipment.

This equipment could include enormous crewed spacecraft, orbital telescopes, and even space-based power plants that would be composed of modular components that would form megastructures once in orbit.

Researchers at the Chinese Academy of Sciences have warned that the "rapid development of space technology and the increasing demand for space missions [means] the traditional spacecraft manufacturing, deployment and launch methods have been unable to meet existing needs".

"In-space assembly technologies can effectively adapt to the assembly of large space structures, improve spacecraft performance, and reduce operating costs," added Zhihui Xue, a roboticist at the CAS Shenyang Institute of Automation.

There are also questions about what such a big spacecraft would be used for. Lembeck said possibilities include space manufacturing facilities that take advantage of microgravity and abundant solar power to build high-value products like semiconductors and optical equipment, or long-term habitats for off-world living. But both would entail enormous maintenance costs.

“The space station is a $3 billion a year enterprise,” Lembeck added. “Multiply that for larger facilities and it quickly becomes a rather large, expensive enterprise to pull off.”