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China sets launch date for historic space dock

(Shanghai Daily)

08:27, September 21, 2011

China will launch its unmanned space module, Tiangong-1, sometime during the last four days of September, a spokesperson said yesterday.

The module and its carrier rocket, Long-March II-F, have been moved to the launch platform at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gansu Province, said the project's spokesperson. In the next few days, scientists will conduct the final tests on all devices.

The 8.5-metric ton Tiangong-1, or "Heavenly Palace 1," will be sent into space to perform the nation's first space-docking procedure. It is supposed to dock with the unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft, which will be sent into space after the Tiangong-1's launch.

Scientists also plan to test the long-term unmanned operation and the temporarily manned operation of a space station as well as carry out medical and technical experiments aboard the Tiangong-1.

The launch was rescheduled early this month due to the failed launch of an experimental orbiter.

The Long-March II-F belongs to the same series as the malfunctioning rocket that played a role in experimental orbiter SJ-11-04's failure to enter Earth's orbit in August.

The big test comes weeks after the launch of Tiangong-1, when the eight-ton craft attempts to join up with an unmanned Shenzhou 8 spacecraft that China plans to launch.

"The main task of the Tiangong-1 flight is to experiment in rendezvous and docking between spacecraft," said the spokesperson, adding that this would "accumulate experience for developing a space station."

Russia, the United States and other countries jointly operate the International Space Station, to which China does not belong. But the US will not test a new rocket to take people into space until 2017, and Russia has said manned missions are no longer a priority for its space program, which has struggled with delays and glitches.

China is still far from catching up with space superpowers. The Tiangong-1 launch is a trial step in the nation's plans to eventually establish a space station.

"Tiangong-1 is, I think, primarily a technology test-bed," said Joan Johnson-Freese, an expert on China's space program at the US Naval War College in Rhode Island.

China launched its second moon orbiter last year after it became only the third country to send its astronauts walking in space outside their orbiting craft in 2008.

It plans an unmanned moon landing and deployment of a moon rover in 2012, and the retrieval of lunar soil and stone samples around 2017. Scientists have talked about the possibility of sending a man to the moon after 2020.


Leave your comment2 comments

  1. Name

Walton at 2011-09-22174.6.21.*
The World is waiting with expectation of china to take its rightfull place in Space, and to set up its own Space Station,"Quin"
helen at 2011-09-21141.0.9.*
The Chinese people must never forget Mao"s advice to be self-reliant.It was the United States who specifically barred China from participating in the International Space Station (ISS) project. Just as the US and its axis attempted to isolate, sanction and embargo China immediately after the Liberation. But these have never discouraged the Chinese people from going it alone. The New China under the CPC is advancing all directions and China and the Chinese people will never again kowtow to foreign powers!The Chinese people will never lose out to others!

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