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China's first unmanned space module ready


A file photo.

BEIJING (PTI): China has finished fabrication of its first unmanned space module and is currently testing its electronic, mechanical and thermal properties, ahead of its launch next year, the state media reported on Tuesday.

The 8.5-tonne Tiangong-1 will be put into preset orbit in 2011, Xinhua news agency quoted a military source as saying.

The space module is expected to carry out China's first space docking, with the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft, which will be launched in the second half of 2011 after Tiangong-1.

The source said experts are currently building the Shenzhou-8 and testing the Long March II-F carrier rocket on which the Tiangong-1 is expected to be launched.

Chinese astronauts, including two females, are undergoing training for the space docking, the report said.

Earlier reports said two other spacecraft, the Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spaceships, will be launched in 2012 and will also dock with Tiangong-1.

China, which has an ambitious space programme, sent its first manned spacecraft, Shenzhou 5 in 2003. This achievement made China the third country to independently send humans into space after the US and Russia.

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