If everything goes smoothly, China will launch Tiangong-1 at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at the end of 2010, said Zhang Jianqi, Deputy Commander-in-Chief of China's Manned Space Engineering Program in an exclusive interview for Xinhua News Agency.
The research and development for the Tiangong-1 target spacecraft is in full swing, said Zhang, also an NPC deputy.
Tiangong-1, weighing about 8.5 tons, has a support module and an experiment module which can carry much heavier loads than the Shenzhou spacecraft series. Tiangong-1 is also equipped with a spacecraft docking system.
Tiangong-1 is a target spacecraft China is developing for the next step in its space program-- the construction of a space station.
Its main mission will be to serve as the target for carrying out space rendezvous and docking experiments, to guarantee the working and living conditions of taikonauts as well as their safety during their short-term parking orbit. It will also carry out space application and aerospace medical experiments, space science experiments and technical testing of the space station, and basically establish a space experiment platform that can carry out short-term manned missions and long-term independent and reliably-operated unmanned missions.
"After completing the above tasks, we will start the third step, in which we will go all out to build a long-term manned space station by 2020." Zhang said, after that, "Tiangong-1" will be upgraded to a cargo spaceship. The cargo spaceship will not only have rendezvous and docking functions, it will provide refueling for the space station. The first launch of the cargo spaceship will take place at Hainan's Wenchang Satellite Launch Center.
Zhang also disclosed that after the successful launch of "Tiangong-1," China will successively launch the Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spacecrafts to meet and dock with "Tiangong-1."
According to plans for space missions to progress from unmanned rendezvous to manned docking, the Shenzhou-8 mission will be an unmanned spaceflight task. If the mission is completed successfully, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 will carry taikonauts.
By People's Daily Online