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Tiangong 1

Source:Englishweekly Author:Englishweekly Date:3/8/2010 Hits:1479

Tiangong 1 is a Chinese space laboratory, intended as a test-bed to develop the rendezvous and docking capabilities needed to support a larger, inhabited space station complex. The launch of Tiangong 1, aboard a Long March 2F rocket, is planned for late September 2011.

Design and development

According to the China National Space Administration (CNSA), Tiangong 1 is an 8.5-metric-ton "space laboratory module", capable of docking with manned and autonomous spacecraft. The Shenzhou 8, Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10 spacecraft are expected to dock with it during its two-year operational lifespan.

On 29 September 2008, Zhang Jianqi , Vice Director of the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO), declared in an interview with China Central Television (CCTV) that Tiangong 1 would be launched in 2010 or 2011.

By mid-2011, the construction of the Tiangong module was complete, and testing of its electronic, mechanical and thermal properties was underway. Testing was also conducted on the Long March 2F carrier rocket on which Tiangong 1 is expected to be launched. Chinese astronauts, including two women, underwent training for manned missions to the space station.

Missions to Tiangong 1

The unmanned Shenzhou 8 mission is planned to dock with Tiangong 1 in late 2011, marking China's first orbital docking. The subsequent manned Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10 missions are planned to dock with Tiangong 1 in 2012.

Launch schedule

Tiangong 1 was originally intended to be lanched in August 2011, and was transported as planned to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on 26 August. However, following the failed launch of a Long March 2C rocket in August 2011, the launch was postponed, as the Long March 2C is highly similar to the Long March 2F that is to be used for the Tiangong 1 launch. Following an investigation into the August launch failure, Tiangong 1's launch was rescheduled for late September 2011, partly to coincide with the Chinese National Day on 1 October.