China to launch spacecraft for manned space docking

June 9th, 2012 - 1:53 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, June 9 (IANS) China will launch a spacecraft in mid-June to carry out the country’s first manned space docking mission with an orbiting space lab module, a spokesperson said Saturday.

The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and its carrier rocket, the Long March-2F, had been moved to the launch platform at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, the spokesperson with the country’s manned space programme said.

In the next few days, scientists will conduct functional tests on the spacecraft and the rocket, as well as tests on selected astronauts, spacecraft, rocket and ground systems, reported Xinhua.

The manned spacecraft and its carrier rocket were delivered to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in early April this year.

The Tiangong-1 space lab module, or Heavenly Palace-1, is orbiting normally.

The final preparations are running smoothly, and the selected astronauts have completed their training and are in sound physical and mental conditions, according to the spokesperson.

Niu Hongguang, deputy commander-in-chief of the country’s manned space programme, earlier said the three-person crew on Shenzhou-9 might include female astronauts, but the final selection would be decided “on the very last condition”.

The space docking mission will be manually conducted by astronauts, giving China another chance to test its docking technology.

One of the three Shenzhou-9 crew members will not board the Tiangong-1 space module lab, but will remain inside the spacecraft as a precautionary measure in case of emergency, the spokesperson said.

The target module Tiangong-1, which blasted off Sep 29, 2011, went into long-term operation in space awaiting docking attempts of Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 after completing China’s first space docking mission with the unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft in early November.

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