Xinhua - China plans to launch an unmanned space module, Tiangong-1, in 2011, which is expected to accomplish the country's first space docking and regarded as an essential step toward building a space station, an expert said Wednesday
Tiangong, or the Heavenly Palace, would finally be transformed into a manned space lab after experimental dockings with three Shenzhou spacecraft, which are expected to be put into space within two years following the module's launch. (by 2013)
A spokesman of China's space program said in February last year that the country had planned to launch the unmanned module into orbit as early as the end of 2010. Qi said the delay was due to technical reasons.
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
Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10, the two other spaceships to dock with Tiangong-1, would carry two or three astronauts each.
The spaceships would possibly carry seeds from Taiwan for experiments
China is building a carrier rocket production base in the northern municipality of Tianjin, according to Liang.
With a total investment of 10 billion yuan and covering an area of more than one million square meters, the base would be capable of producing 12 carrier rockets each year once completed, he said.
The base will be able to produce two carrier rockets each year after the first stage of construction is completed next year
experts are currently developing China's new generation of carrier rockets, the Long March V, in the Tianjin base, adding that research on the initial model of the large-thrust rocket is already underway.
Earlier report said Long March V, with a maximum payload capacity of up to 25 tonnes, would be put into service in 2014
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