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Russia mulls sending cosmonauts to China’s planned orbit station

China plans to launch an experimental module to its space station in 2018

ADELAIDE/Australia/, September 25. /TASS/. Russia’s space agency is considering plans of sending cosmonauts to China’s orbit station currently under construction, Roscosmos chief Igor Komarov told reporters at the International Astronautical Congress on Monday.

"There have been certain talks on this issue," Komarov said, commenting on whether Russia has received any offers for its cosmonauts to visit China’s orbit station in the future.

The Roscosmos chief said he expects that the parliament will ratify a fundamental law regulating the exchange of technologies in rocket industry within one or two months. "I hope that after this a possibility will open for full-fledged and full-scale cooperation."

"In many areas a big horizon will open and we see an interest of our partners," he said.

China plans to launch an experimental module to its space station in 2018, while the station will be completely placed in the orbit by 2022.

Russian module Nauka

Nauka ("Science"), also known as the Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM), is planned to be launched to the International Space Station (ISS) in the first half of 2018, Roscosmos Director General Igor Komarov said on Monday.

"We are working in this area. We plan to launch the MLM module in the first half of 2018," Komarov said at a press conference for space agency heads at the International Astronautical Congress.

Head of the European Space Agency’s (ESA) Moscow Office Rene Pischel said in an interview with TASS earlier that the launch of the module with the European Robotic Arm (ERA) was pre-scheduled for the autumn of 2018.

Construction of the MLM kicked off in 1995. It was initially regarded as a backup for Rassvet ("Dawn"), the first ISS module. In 2004, it was decided to transform it into a full-featured research flight module and launch it in 2007, but the launch was postponed numerous times.

The MLM takeoff mass exceeds 20 tonnes, and three tonnes of research equipment may be placed in it. The module also has to provide a docking port for the Soyuz and Progress spacecraft and help transfer fuel from the Progress to the ISS, as well as operate the station’s roll orientation with the use of engines. It will have to both solve scientific tasks and produce oxygen for six people and water from recycled urine (this technology was previously used at the Mir station and is currently being used at the US part of the ISS).

Nauka will also provide the second toilet for the Russian cosmonauts (the first is located in the Zvezda module) and a room for the third crewmember.