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China to initiate first step of space station construction

By Zhao Yahui (People's Daily)

16:19, September 29, 2011

Edited and Translated by People's Daily Online

With the launch of the space module Tiangong 1 approaching, Niu Hongguang, deputy commander-in-chief of China's manned space program and deputy chief of the General Armaments Department of the People's Liberation Army, talked about the mission of the space rendezvous and docking of Tiangong 1 and the Shenzhou 8 spacecraft during an interview with People's Daily at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre.

Tiangong 1 to dock with three Shenzhou spacecraft

The main tasks of the Tiangong 1 flight are: to complete the tests of the rendezvous and docking of spacecraft and make breakthroughs in space rendezvous and docking technologies; initially establish a space test platform that can make long-term independent in-orbit operations as well as conduct astronaut stay tests in space in order to accumulate experience for the development of a space station, and carry out space environment and physics explorations, space science tests, aerospace medical experiments and space technology tests.

After the launch of space module Tiangong 1, China will successively launch Shenzhou 8, Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10 spacecraft and make them dock with Tiangong 1. The Shenzhou 8 will be unmanned and whether or not Shenzhou 9 is manned will depend on the evaluation of the performance of the Shenzhou 8. Shenzhou 10 will make a manned flight.

The Tiangong 1 adopts a double-module structure featuring an experimental module and a resource module, and its designed life in orbit is two years.

The Tiangong 1 target spacecraft is a newly designed manned spacecraft and also the spacecraft with longest designed life of all the low-earth-orbit spacecraft designed by China so far. It could be called a simple space laboratory.

Its total length is 10.4 meters, with a maximum diameter of 3.35 meters and a takeoff weight of 8.5 tons. The experimental module could contain two or three astronauts. The passive docking adapter installed on its front end is used to support rendezvous and docking with the space shuttle. The resource module is the power source of the target spacecraft.

The carrying capacity and orbit-entering precision of the Long March II F T1 carrier rocket used to launch the spacecraft have both been improved.

The Tiangong 1 will be launched on the Long March II F T1 carrier rocket. The rocket's total length is 52 meters, takeoff weight is 493 tons and carrying capacity is 8.6 tons.

During the mission term of the Tiangong 1, the land, sea and sky-based telemetric tracking and command network consisting of the Tianlian-1 repeater satellite, 16 land-based telemetric tracking and command stations in and outside of China, Yuanwang surveying boat, the Beijing Aerospace Control Center and the Xi'an Telemetric Tracking and Command Center will accomplish the tasks of telemetric tracking, command and communication support for the flight mission.

According to the plan, the Shenzhou 8 space shuttle will be launched in the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in November 2011 to carry out the first rendezvous and docking experiment of China.

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