China to Launch First Space Station Next Week

China's Tiangong-1 space laboratory with a Shenzhou spacecraft approaching it. (Credit: CNSA)

The Chinese Xinhua news agency reports that the nation will launch its first space station between Sept. 27 and 30.

The 8.5-metric ton Tiangong-1 (Heavenly Palace 1) is about half the size of the early Soviet Salyut space stations that were launched in the 1970s.  It will serve as docking target for three Shenzhou spacecraft. The first will dock unmanned to demonstrate that capability.  If that mission is successful, two crews will dock at the station and conduct experiments.

The launch of the station was delayed from early September because of a failure of a Long March rocket. Additional checks were required.