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China to launch first unmanned space module in 2011

An artistic conception of the Tiangong-1 space module.

BEIJING (PTI): China is expected to launch its first unmanned space module, which is also known as the “target spacecraft,” next year.

The Tiangong-1 spacecraft module, which is equipped with two docking ports to serve as a target for a rendezvous docking operation, is expected to enter into orbit in October 2011, Yan Zhongwen of the China Academy of Space Technology said.

It will first dock with the unmanned Shenzhou 8 spacecraft and then the manned Shenzhou 9 spacecraft, according to Yan.

It is expected that China will establish its first permanent manned space station in 2017, official media here reported.

China’s manned space projects have three steps. The first is the manned technology represented by Shenzhou 5 and Shenzhou 6, which were launched in 2003 and 2005 respectively.

The second step is to set up a short-term manned space station after completing docking and extra-vehicular activities.
The third step is to build a permanent manned space station for space science experiments.


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