China to launch spacecraft in mid-June for manned space docking

June 10, 2012 6:20 am


The Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft at the launch pad in northwest China/XINHUA
JIUQUAN, Gansu, Jun 10 – China will launch its Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft sometime in mid-June to perform the country’s first manned space docking mission with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module, a spokesperson said here on Saturday.

By 10:30am on Saturday, the 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, a spokesperson with the country’s manned space program said.

In the next few days, scientists will conduct functional tests on the spacecraft and the rocket, as well as joint tests on selected astronauts, spacecraft, rocket and ground systems, according to the spokesperson.

The Shenzhou-9 will be launched into space to perform China’s first manned space docking mission with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module.

The manned spacecraft Shenzhou-9 and its carrier rocket were delivered to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in early April this year.

The Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace-1, was lowered to docking orbit in early June and is orbiting normally, the spokesperson said.

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 program, said earlier that 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, the program’s spokesperson said previously.

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 on Sept. 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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