China has announced plans to launch the core module for their own space station next year, with additional modules intended to follow soon thereafter. Once completed, China’s space station will be smaller than the current International Space Station, but with the ISS slated for retirement in 2024, China may be the only nation with a permanent address in Earth’s orbit in the very near future.

The core module, named “Tianhe-1,” will be launched on a new rocket platform designed by the Chinese to carry extremely heavy loads into space. The March-5 heavyweight carrier rocket will also be used to deliver additional modules to the space station, including two laboratories that will dock to the sides of the primary module. The two-stage rocket is said to have a payload capacity of 25 tons for low-Earth orbit, and 14 tons for much higher missions to geostationary transfer orbit. The Chinese space agency intends to have their space station completed by 2022, two years before the International Space Station is expected to conclude its tour of duty.

The Chinese space station will initially be smaller than the ISS, which weighs in at a healthy 420 tons, but China has made it clear that their design will accept future additions, including the possibility of international cooperation on future modules. It has already been assembled on the ground and is currently undergoing testing, according to Bao Weimin, director with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation and a member of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC).

The space station has been designed to function without refit for “dozens of years” in Earth’s orbit, and was constructed specifically to be able to withstand collisions with or navigate around the increasingly high levels of debris found circling our planet.