Next-Generation Crew Vehicle Looks Strikingly Similar to CST-100 and Orion
As China continues to work on the construction of a manned space station in the LEO for 2020, they are also working on a next-generation crew vehicle, which can transport crew or cargo to the Moon, Lagrange Points, Near Earth Asteroids and Mars.
The unnamed vehicle, which could launch as soon as 2020, would abandon the Soyuz-like design of the Shenzhou spacecraft which has been the mainstay of the Chinese space program since its inception.
Instead, the new design calls for a conical crew module above a cylindrical service module, similar to the Orion and CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, as well as the earlier Apollo spacecraft.
The multipurpose vehicle would be launched aboard either the CZ-7 or CZ-5 rocket launcher, both expected to fly in 2016.
The CZ-7 has a payload capacity of 14 tonnes to LEO, while the CZ-5 has a payload capacity of 25 tonnes. Both launchers are currently in development, and will require further modifications to become man-rated.
The Chinese vehicle would be able to hold up to six people, and splash down in the ocean.