China’s 1st Space Station Tiangong-1 Prepares For Launch

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While China's first astronaut is publicly discussing the prospect of China's future engagement with the International Space Station, Tiangong-1 is loaded with payloads and is undergoing final tests before its launch at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China's Gansu Province . The 8.5-ton module, the first in a series of connecting rooms that will be launched into orbit on a Long March II-F carrier booster later this year.


Chinese news outlets report that Tiangong-1 is built to serve as a rendezvous and docking platform for China's future spacecraft. Once in Earth orbit, it would be followed by blastoff of an unpiloted Shenzhou-8 spacecraft in the latter half of this year, to carry out the nation's first space docking. [Photos: China's First Space Station]

That one-two punch for China's space station undertaking would see the launching of the Tiangong-1 target spacecraft and the Shenzhou-8 spaceship in the third and fourth quarters of 2011, respectively, according to several Chinese news outlets.

During the recent Paris Air Show, a delegation from the China Manned Space Engineering Office accepted 300 flags from the International Astronautical Federation. These flags are to be taken to the Tiangong-1 target spacecraft. They are slated to be brought back to Earth by a Chinese astronaut when he completes China's first piloted rendezvous and docking linkup next year. In December 2010, the same 300 IAF flags were sent to the International Space Station via the Russian TMA-20 piloted spacecraft. They were delivered back to Earth by the space shuttle Endeavour in June 2011.

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The Daily Galaxy via chinadaily.com.cn and space.com

Image top of page: Shenzhou-8 undergoes testing in preparation for carrying out an unpiloted rendezvous and docking mission to the Tiangong-1platform.

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