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China launches Shenzhou 8 to test space docking


09:55, November 01, 2011

JIUQUAN, Nov. 1 (Xinhua) -- China's unmanned spacecraft Shenzhou-8 blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwestern Gobi desert area at 5:58 a.m. Beijing Time Tuesday.

The spacecraft, carried by a modified Long March-2F carrier rocket, is expected to dock with Tiangong-1 space lab module that was sent into space on Sept. 29.

The spacecraft entered its initial orbit, about 200 km high above Earth, some 20 minutes after its launch, according to the command center.

Commander-in-chief of China's manned space program Chang Wanquan announced that the launch of Shenzhou-8 was successful.

The spacecraft has to go through a series of swingbys to catch up with Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace-1, which is orbiting Earth at a height of 343 km.

The rendezvous and docking maneuver will take place within two days and the practice will build up experience for further docking with Shenzhou-9 and -10 in 2012 and the building of a permanent manned space station around 2020.

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