China is scheduled to complete a new space station known as the Tiangong programme in 2022. The Chinese space station will use LED lighting exclusively. All lighting for the space station will be LED-based including large and powerful spotlights that illuminate missions such as spacewalks and docking and the astronauts’ bedside lamps. Their energy efficiency, light weight, compact size and long lifetime durability, and their ability to operate without generating much heat, make them ideal for space applications.
China began using LEDs when the country’s manned spacecraft Shenzhou 7 carried three astronauts to perform the first Chinese spacewalk in 2008. Since that time, China has used LEDs in space and has expanded the range of applications that use them.
Among the numerous lighting applications on space missions, LEDs currently illuminate Chinese spacecraft for their rendezvous with the international space station. They also light female astronaut Liu Yang as she records video tutorials that students on earth can view via satellite.
The biggest benefit for space missions is safety, according to the article. Whereas conventional lighting requires high voltage current pressurized gases, LED lighting does not. It apparently took five years from 2003 when the Chinese space program started for LED technology to mature enough for its use in China’s space projects. Beyond just replacing traditional lighting, engineers also had to ensure that LEDs would remain stable and continue working while being exposed to radiation and extreme hot and cold temperatures that are common in space.