China builds a 'ground space station' to simulate diverse conditions in space

The ground-based space station comprises multiple chambers that simulate different environments, ranging from the lunar surface to microgravity.
Mrigakshi Dixit
Representational image of space station chamber.
Representational image of space station chamber.


China has developed first-of-its-kind space station simulators to conduct various experiments and test instruments on Earth, as per the South China Morning Post (SCMP)

Reportedly, the researchers have already begun the first experimental operations of this project, known as the ground space station. 

The space station simulators are based in the northeastern city of Harbin.  

The main goal of this project is to create a platform to conduct fundamental scientific research on Earth under conditions comparable to those found in space. The facility will also allow the testing of space equipment, such as satellite components and spacesuits.

Experiments at the simulators 

Compared to a space lab, this space-like research facility will provide a more convenient approach to evaluating diverse technology ideas. Simulators, on the other hand, make it cheaper and safer to conduct tests.

Furthermore, numerous chambers have been built to simulate various space-like conditions, such as microgravity, weak magnetic fields, electromagnetic radiation, plasma, and space dust.

One simulator chamber mimics the radiation environment. As per SCMP, this chamber comes the closest to replicating the actual radiation conditions seen in space. The chamber will felicitate “research and testing of satellite and spacecraft components.” 

On the other hand, one of the magnetic chambers imitates a near-zero magnetic field, allowing various scientific instruments to be tested before the real launch.

Chamber that simulates lunar conditions  

Reportedly, one of the simulators also mimics conditions of the lunar surface. 

This lunar simulator might be used to investigate numerous lunar phenomena, such as the creation of lunar dust. It will aid scientists in learning about the effects of lunar regolith on spacecraft, spacesuits, and astronauts. 

According to Lin Xiqiang, deputy head of the China Manned Space Agency, the country hopes to place its first crew on the Moon by 2030. The human-robotic joint exploration mission will allow humans to stay on the lunar surface for a short duration.

Lin stated in May that preparations for the manned lunar landing phase were progressing. All mission systems are being researched and developed, including those necessary for the new Long March 10 carrier rocket, spacecraft, lunar surface landers, and lunar landing suits.

The experts anticipate that this simulated infrastructure will attract scientists from across the world to perform cutting-edge scientific research. 

According to Xinhua, in addition to Chinese researchers, institutes from more than 30 nations have signed usage agreements for the facilities.

Several Chinese institutes, including the Harbin Institute of Technology (HIT), are working together with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation on this one-of-a-kind project. 

Meanwhile, China previously revealed intentions to add another module to the Tiangong space station, consisting of three modules launched one at a time since May 2021, while all were assembled in orbit.

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