China has outlined plans to build an orbital science lab by 2023.
The “Heavenly Palace” station will have six people and will serve as a test bed for experiments in astronomy, technology and more.
China expects to build 11 spacecraft during rocket launch, SpaceNews reports.
The first of these will be held next year, Zhou Xianping, chief designer of China’s human space program, said at a conference in Beijing on Tuesday.
Once launched, China’s labs will compete with the International Space Station (ISS) built by the space agency from the United States, Japan, Russia, Canada and Europe.
ISS has been orbiting about 250 miles above the Earth’s surface since 1999 and also serves as a space environmental research laboratory.
Xianping’s announcement came shortly after the China National Space Administration (CNSA) launched its new rocket earlier this month.
The Long March 5B is designed to carry large payloads in low-Earth orbit.
Xiaoping said the launch of the new station’s main module on March 5th could be as early as 2021.
A model of the giant module was unveiled in 2018 at an airshow in Zhuhai, China.
As part of the 11 missions, China expects to operate two test modules, four crew aircraft and four cargo vehicles.
The station will host a number of international scientific projects, ranging from astronomy to deep space travel.
According to Xianping, a total of 18 astronauts will be taken from the People’s Liberation Army Air Force.
Training has already begun, SpaceNews reported.
President Xi Jinping has given priority to China’s space program to strengthen national security.
The country has already sent two Chinese stations into space – Tiang-1 and Tiang-2 – although only Chinese astronauts boarded them.
The U.S. Defense Department highlights China’s growing space capabilities and says it is working to prevent other countries from using space-based resources in crisis.
China insists it has only peaceful ambitions in space but has tested anti-satellite missiles.