- Allistair Mitchell
Tales from the Edict 13 - China Arrives
Updated: Apr 30, 2021
In 2021 the Tiangong [天宫] program entered its third phase with the launch of the core module, the Tianhe [天河] (“Joining of the Heavens”), into low earth orbit. This was the realisation of a concerted effort by China to establish itself as a space power with independent capability, having been shut out of the ISS program from as far back as 2011.
Over the following years, the Long March 5 [长征五号] program began launching from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site, with the goal of establishment of the modular Tiangong [天宫] space station. In total China conducted 31 launch missions in a program that quickly became shrouded in secrecy.
In June 2027, the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Centre made an abrupt 24-hour warning: a rocket engine module attached to their Tiangong [天宫] space station would fire, and a section would leave Earth orbit. The next day sensors aboard several satellites detected a new type of engine signature and shortly thereafter the Tiangong [天宫] split in two, the aft section began to pull away from Earth on a course for the Moon.
This was the first public knowledge of the Liangjiahe [梁家河] Orbital Lunar Station, a top-secret second space station that would go into orbit around the Moon, in preparation for a permanent Chinese lunar outpost.
Of equal surprise to this turn of events was the revelation that the Chinese had sent a nuclear powered rocket engine into low Earth orbit without any notification. This caused outrage in the Western World, where overflight of a potential nuclear hazard was viewed as a breach of International Law and as highly reckless reckless behaviour, due to the ever present threat of collision with space junk in Earth’s orbit, caused in part by China’s flagrant testing of an anti-satellite device in 2007.
China followed the Liangjiahe [梁家河] Orbital Lunar Station with a manned crew. Two further rendezvous with Liangjiahe [梁家河] brought the core components of a lunar base, which were delivered to the Mare Imbrium region of the Moon, where the lunar rover Chang’e 3 [嫦娥三号] had successfully landed back in 2013.
Again, in great secrecy, the nuclear propulsion unit attached to the Liangjiahe [梁家河] space station was decoupled and flown down to the lunar surface, where it underwent a repurposing to provide power for the new lunar base, named Guang Han Gong (广寒宫). The Liangjiahe [梁家河] Orbital Lunar Station was subsequently re-fitted to rely on solar power.
Each of the three key components, Tiangong [天宫] (in low Earth orbit), Liangjiahe [梁家河] (in lunar orbit) and Guang Han Gong [广寒宫] (on the Moon) are considered marvels of engineering excellence. China’s ability to make such rapid progress in space exploration came as a shock to America and its allies, and future Chinese plans are awaited with great anticipation.