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China on pace for 2020 space station


10:11, November 04, 2011

China is on track to establish a manned space station around 2020, a spokeswoman for the country's manned space program said yesterday.

Wu Ping said at a press conference that China's spacecraft will conduct two more docking missions in 2012. After that, the nation will begin to build a space lab and space station.

The unmanned spacecraft Shenzhou-8 and its space lab module Tiangong-1 rendezvoused at 1:36am yesterday, successfully completing the country's first-ever space docking. The maneuver was a major technological breakthrough for the country, Wu noted.

Tiangong-1 has been in orbit since its launch on September 29. Equipment has been working properly since the successful docking, Wu said.

Shenzhou-8 and Tiangong-1 will fly together for about 12 days and then conduct another space docking and fly together for another two days. Shenzhou-8 is set to return to Earth on the evening of November 17, she said.

Through 10 years of efforts, China has made breakthroughs in key technologies and formed a set of design, production and experiment systems for space docking, Wu said.

"Acquisition of the space-docking technology is vital for China to implement the three-phase development strategy of its manned space program and to promote the sustained development of its manned space cause," she said.

Space docking is among the fundamental technologies necessary for manned space operations. The precision docking system and the more than 600 sets of equipment aboard Shenzhou-8 are all developed and made by China, Wu said.

The docking system, composed of up to 10,000 parts, was developed by Chinese research institutions led by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, she added.

After Chinese spacecraft conduct two more docking missions in 2012, the nation will begin to build a space lab in 2016, and the space station around 2020, Wu said.

The spacecraft Shenzhou-8 will be used to carry out life-science experiments with Chinese and German scientists, Wu said.

A total of 17 life-science experiment projects will be conducted, including 10 Chinese projects, six German projects, and one jointly developed project. It marks the first time China's manned space program will carry out international cooperation in the field of space science application.

China plans to continue with international exchanges, Wu said.

In addition to the life-science tests, the Tiangong-1 carries several science experiments, including remote sensing, space material science and space environment, Wu said.

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