China plans space station with module launch in 2010

March 1, 2009
Models of the Long March rocket at the Sichuan Science and Technology Museum in Chengdu in China's southwestern province of Sichuan, September 2008. China will launch a space module next year and carry out the nation's first space docking in 2011 as a step towards its goal of building a space station, state media said Sunday.

China will launch a space module next year and carry out the nation's first space docking in 2011 as a step towards its goal of building a space station, state media said Sunday.

The Tiangong-1, or "Heavenly Palace-1" is scheduled for launch in late 2010 and will dock with a Shenzhou-8 spacecraft early the following year, Xinhua news agency said, citing officials with China's space programme.

"The module, named Tiangong-1, is designed to provide a 'safe room' for Chinese astronauts to live and conduct scientific research in zero gravity," the report said.

"Weighing about 8.5 tonnes, Tiangong-1 is able to perform long-term unattended operation, which will be an essential step toward building a space station."

Space programme officials have previously said China is expected to place in orbit several modules like the Tiangong and link them up to form a semi-permanent space platform.

It was not immediately clear if the Tiangong-1 would eventually serve as China's first manned space station, or whether it would be a base to test docking and space station technology.

The planned 2011 docking would be remotely carried out by scientists on the ground and would not involve astronauts, the report said.

The announcement of the Tiangong mission came as China's first lunar probe, the Chang'e-1 impacted the moon's surface Sunday afternoon, after a nearly 16 month mission photographing and mapping the lunar surface, Xinhua said in a separate report.

The Chang'e-1 was launched on October 24, 2007, signalling China's rising space ambitions and Beijing's participation in a renewed race against Asian rivals Japan and India to explore the moon.

The probe, named after a legendary Chinese goddess who flew to the moon, is the first stage of China's lunar programme, which includes landing an unmanned rover on the surface by 2012 and a manned mission by around 2020.

China became the third nation to put a man in space when Yang Liwei piloted the one-man Shenzhou-5 space mission in 2003.

Last September, the Shenzhou-7, piloted by three "taikonauts" or astronauts, carried out China's first space walk.

This year, China's space programme will focus on building several prototypes of the Tiangong, while upgrades to the carrier rocket that will launch the module into space would also be carried out, Xinhua said.

Following the Shenzhou-8 flight, China also hopes to begin the mass production of Shenzhou spacecraft which will be used to transport astronauts to the space station, it said.

The International Space Station began with the launch into orbit of the first station element, a Russian-built module on November 20, 1998.

It orbits 350 kilometres (190 miles) above the earth's surface with a permanent crew of three astronauts, who remain aboard for stays lasting several months.

(c) 2009 AFP

Explore further: NASA to create first-ever space-based sodium lidar to study poorly understood mesosphere

Related Stories

Saving time in space

May 19, 2017

Working inside the International Space Station is sometimes like assembling complex furniture but with the tools and paper instructions continually floating out of reach. Astronauts also face situations unforeseen by the ...

Mining the moon for rocket fuel to get us to Mars

May 15, 2017

Forty-five years have passed since humans last set foot on an extraterrestrial body. Now, the moon is back at the center of efforts not only to explore space, but to create a permanent, independent space-faring society.

Scientists look to skies to improve tsunami detection

May 18, 2017

A team of scientists from Sapienza University in Rome, Italy, and NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, has developed a new approach to assist in the ongoing development of timely tsunami detection systems, ...

NASA annual Arctic ice survey expanded range this year

May 17, 2017

NASA's annual survey of changes in Arctic ice cover greatly expanded its reach this year in a series of flights that wrapped up on May 12. It was the most ambitious spring campaign in the region for NASA's Operation IceBridge, ...

Recommended for you

Star-forming filaments

May 22, 2017

Interstellar molecular clouds are often seen to be elongated and "filamentary" in shape, and come in a wide range of sizes. In molecular clouds, where stars form, the filamentary structure is thought to play an important ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

jimmie
2.3 / 5 (3) Mar 01, 2009
may be the only Chinese lead free product

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.