September 29th, 2011
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China to launch its space lab

Long-March-II-F-rocketBeijing: China will launch its first miniature space laboratory today (Thursday). The Tiangong -1 space capsule will be launched at 9:16 pm from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the north-western province of Gansu. Mission controllers took their position at the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center for the countdown. The Long March II-F rocket will carry the China’s first space station module Tiangong-1 into orbit.

The nation’s first miniature space laboratory and test systems will be used in a permanent space station. The main aim of the Tiangong-1, or Palace of Heaven, mission was to test docking and other technology to be used in a future space station.

Scientists conducted a full ground simulation on the module and the carrier rocket at the launch centre on Sunday. Engineers at Jiuquan were also preparing to launch the unmanned Shenzhou-8, or Magic Ship, space capsule, which is scheduled to perform the first docking manoeuvre with Tiangong-1 in early November, the centre reported.

Astronauts are scheduled to visit Tiangong-1 twice next year on the Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 missions, which will set up a mini-space station consisting of linked capsules.

In 2003, China became the third nation to send an astronaut into orbit, after Russia and the United States. It conducted its first spacewalk in 2008 and has an ambitious space programme that includes plans for an unmanned lunar landing.

 



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