China plans first space docking for 2011
China will launch a space module next year and carry out the nation’s first space docking in 2011 as a step towards its goal of building a space station, state media said Sunday.
The Tiangong-1, or “Heavenly Palace-1” is scheduled for launch in late 2010 and will dock with a Shenzhou-8 spacecraft early the following year, Xinhua news agency said, citing officials with China’s space programme.
“The module, named Tiangong-1, is designed to provide a ‘safe room’ for Chinese astronauts to live and conduct scientific research in zero gravity,” the report said. “Weighing about 8.5 tonnes, Tiangong-1 is able to perform long-term unattended operation, which will be an essential step toward building a space station.”
Space programme officials have previously said China is expected to place in orbit several modules like the Tiangong and link them up to form a semi-permanent space platform. It was not immediately clear if the Tiangong-1 would eventually serve as China’s first manned space station, or whether it would be a base to test docking and space station technology.
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