Russian spacecraft won’t be able to visit the Chinese orbital station

Russian spacecraft do not have the opportunity to visit the new Chinese orbital station. This was stated by the representative of the Chinese Aerospace Scientific and Industrial Corporation (CASIC) Yang Yuguang.

Failed Savior of Russia

Last year, Roscosmos announced negotiations on sending Russian cosmonauts to the Chinese orbital station. And after the start of a large-scale invasion of Ukraine and threats to leave the ISS, many Russian officials began to talk about China as a new strategic partner and even a “savior” of Russia in space. 

Chinese Orbital Station (concept). Source:

However, with all the desire, Russian spacecraft will not be able to visit the Chinese orbital station. And it’s not even about some political issues (although, looking ahead a little, they clearly played a role in this story), but the laws of physics and orbital inclination.

Value of the orbital inclination

The orbit of the Chinese station has an inclination of 42 °. This means that it can be reached by manned spacecraft launched from cosmodromes located at a similar or lower latitude. However, the Baikonur cosmodrome is located at 45 °N latitude, the Vostochny cosmodrome is at 51 °N latitude. And this means that heavy spacecraft launched from their territory (Soyuz and Progress spacecraft) simply cannot physically reach the Chinese station. To do this, they will have to reduce their orbital inclination, which in turn requires very large energy costs, significantly exceeding the capabilities of Russian rockets and propulsion systems of Russian spacecraft. With his statement, Yang Yuguan actually just reminded Roscosmos of this unpleasant fact for him.

Soyuz spacecraft. Source: NASA

Interestingly, according to unofficial information, at one time Russia asked China to put its station into orbit with a higher inclination, which would allow launching Russian spacecraft to it. But the Celestial Empire did not want to make such concessions, which hints that it no longer perceives Russia as an equal space power.

To the above, it is worth adding that in his statement, Yang Yuguang said that if desired, it would not be difficult for Europeans, Japanese and Americans to launch their spacecraft to the Chinese station. He also noted that China is currently considering nine experiments from seventeen countries to be sent into orbit. China also announced its intention to eventually open its orbital station for business.

You can also read our article about the fate of the ISS after Russia leaves it.

According to

Follow us on Twitter to get the most interesting space news in time