China unveils plans to put a new space station into orbit by 2020

China has unveiled ambitious plans to build a new space station and put it in orbit by 2020.

According to China's Ambassador to the UN, construction of the space station is already underway and the craft will be open for scientists around the world to use from 2022.

Like the International Space Station (ISS), the China Space Station (CSS) would orbit 250 miles (400km) above Earth.

China hopes the space station will be operational for around a decade, supporting astronauts for 180-day stints.

This means it could outlive the ISS which may lose its funding from the White House as soon as 2024, according to the latest documents.

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China has unveiled ambitious plans to build a new space station (artist's impression) and put it in orbit by 2020. According to China's Ambassador to UN, construction is already underway and will be open for scientists around the world to use from 2022

China has unveiled ambitious plans to build a new space station (artist's impression) and put it in orbit by 2020. According to China's Ambassador to UN, construction is already underway and will be open for scientists around the world to use from 2022

'CSS belongs not only to China, but also to the world,' said Shi Zhongjun, China's Ambassador to UN, according to state-run news agency Xinhua.

'All countries, regardless of their size and level of development, can participate in the cooperation on an equal footing,' he said.

The CSS is due to be launched by 2019 and will be fully operational by 2022, according to the documents released by the UN's Office for Outer Space Affairs.

Up to three astronauts will be able to live in the CSS - which consists of one core module and two experimental ones - at the same time.

'Through the vehicle of CSS, we would like to build up a model of sincere mutual beneficial cooperation among countries in the peaceful exploration and use of outer space,' Mr Shi said. 

The US initially banned China from participating in the ISS project, which is run by the European Space Agency, Canada, Russia and Japan.

Last month China launched a relay satellite (pictured). It was part of the country's mission to become the first to soft-land a probe on the moon's far side, also known as the dark side because it faces away from Earth and is comparatively unknown

Last month China launched a relay satellite (pictured). It was part of the country's mission to become the first to soft-land a probe on the moon's far side, also known as the dark side because it faces away from Earth and is comparatively unknown

It looks like the new space station could also out-live the ISS.

The administration is thinking about privatising the International Space Station, according to NASA documents obtained by the Washington Post in February.

The White House wants to stop funding for the station after 2024, the documents indicate, and is working on a transition plan to hand the orbiting lab over to private industry.

'NASA will expand international and commercial partnerships over the next seven years in order to ensure continued human access to and presence in low Earth orbit,' the document said.

More would be given to the project for additional years 'to enable the development and maturation of commercial entities and capabilities which will ensure that commercial successors to the ISS – potentially including elements of the ISS – are operational when they are needed.'

WHAT WAS CHINA'S OUT-OF-CONTROL TIANGOING-1 SPACE STATION?

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