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Thursday, 29 September 2011

China Launches Space Station Module To Night!

Rocket Fueled for China's 1st Space Lab Module Launch Thursday

China's space launch rally

China is expected to launch three additional spacecraft at a later time to connect with Tiangong 1 in space. The unmanned Shenzhou 8 mission is due to launch in early November to conduct the first docking tests between two Chinese spacecraft. The country then plans to launch the Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10 to robotically attach to the Tiangong 1 module.

"The main tasks of [the] Tiangong 1 spaceflight include: to provide a target vehicle for space rendezvous and docking experiment; to primarily establish a manned space test platform capable of long-term unmanned operation in space with temporary human attendance, and thus accumulate experiences for the development of the space station; to carry out space science experiments, space medical experiments and space technology experiments," Wu said.

Tiangong-1 space module to launch Thursday CCTV News - CNTV English

"It’s a big deal at several levels," said Dean Cheng, a research fellow on Chinese political and security affairs at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative public policy think tank. "If all goes according to plan this will be China's initial effort at docking, and of course docking is one of those sin qua nons for more prolonged exploration of space. They have to get this skill set down."

China had originally planned to launch the space lab module earlier, but last month, a Long March 2C rocket, which is similar to Tiangong 1's Long March 2F booster, malfunctioned shortly after liftoff and failed to reach orbit. Chinese officials temporarily halted plans for Tiangong 1 as they investigated the accident, which resulted in the loss of an experimental satellite.

Take a look at how China's first space station, called Tiangong ("Heavenly) will be assembled in orbit in this infographic.
Take a look at how China's first space station, called Tiangong ("Heavenly Palace") will be assembled in orbit in this infographic.
CREDIT: Karl Tate/ View full size image

China's growing space program

The launch of China's first space lab test module is considered an important milestone for the country and its growing space program. Chinese officials have voiced their intent to build a 60-ton manned space station by the year 2020. [Infographic: How China's First Space Station Will Work]

In addition to acting as an important test bed for these space station aspirations, Tiangong 1 will also carry medical and engineering experiments into space.

The module is expected to remain in orbit for two years, reported state news agency Xinhua.

China is only the third nation to independently launch humans into orbit, after the United States and Russia. The nation's first manned mission, Shenzhou 5, was piloted by Yang Liwei on Oct. 15, 2003. Liwei's 21-hour mission was followed by two more manned missions in 2005 and 2008.

You can follow staff writer Denise Chow on Twitter @denisechow. senior writer Clara Moskowitz (@ClaraMoskowitz) contributed to this report. Follow for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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