China to Send Unmanned Tiangong-1 Module into Orbit
[Satellite TODAY 09-29-11] China is set to launch the country’s first space laboratory module from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, as part of its effort to build its own space station, Chinese officials confirmed Sept. 27.
The module, Tiangong-1, is currently being injected into a Long March 2-F T1 rocket carrier. The Tiangong-1 mission had been delayed due to a Long March carrier 2C rocket malfunction, which failed to send an experimental satellite into orbit in August. The Tiangong-1 mission was rescheduled to allow engineers time to fix any related problems.
Chinese space officials also confirmed that an unmanned Shenzhou 8 spaceship would be launched in early November to rendezvous and dock with Tiangong-1.
Xinhua Launch Center Chief Engineer Lu Jinrong said that if the mission succeeds, then the module will dock with Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10 in 2012 – both of which will have at least one astronaut on board.
“This is a significant test. We’ve never done such a thing before,” said Jinrong. “Tiangong is bigger and heavier than the Shenzhou spaceships China had developed as a means of transporting astronauts from the Earth to space.”