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China's Heavenly Palace ready to make space history (2)

(Shanghai Daily)

08:12, September 29, 2011

China had selected and begun training candidates to board the Tiangong-1 after the launch of Shenzhou-10 next year.

After the Tiangong-1, China will launch Tiangong-2 and Tiangong-3, probably both manned, to complete the laboratory.

Wu said Tiangong-1 has technological and economic advantages over the early spacecraft made by the United States and Russia.

For example, the Tiangong module can be docked with other craft several times and it can be used as a space laboratory for scientific research after the docking experiment, she said.

However, China's first experiment faces challenges because the rendezvous and docking is widely accepted as a technical difficulty, Wu said.

She said the launch team for the module had drawn up about 200 contingency plans and held many rehearsals to detect any error in the spacecraft as well as the carrier rocket, because a previous rocket malfunctioned and failed to send a satellite into orbit on August 18.

The failure postponed the Tiangong-1 launch because the Long-March 2-F rocket to be used tonight belongs to the same series as the one that malfunctioned.

More than 170 improvements had been made to the rocket, Wu said.

To contain the Tiangong-1 module, which is larger than China's Shenzhou manned spacecraft, the rocket has had a larger nose fairing fitted, said Jing Muchun, chief designer of the Tiangong mission's carrier rocket system.

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