China Launches the First Module of Its Space Station Program

By Veronique Greenwood | September 29, 2011 11:46 am

Artist’s rendering of the Tiangog-1 docking
with another craft.

Today, with much fanfare, China launched its Tiangong-1 space craft into orbit from a site in the Gobi Desert. The unmanned craft is set to dock with later Chinese ships, allowing engineers to practice and experiment with the techniques they’ll need to assemble the space station China plans to build by 2020. Reports from earlier this year suggested that the Tiangong-1 will be converted to taikonaut living quarters in the station, but more recent news indicates that it will be primarily a testing device. For more details about China’s space station dreams, including scientific goals, questions about the military’s intentions, and more, check out our coverage here.

Image courtesy of Xinhua News Agency

  • Brian Too

    I hope the Chinese have compatible docking ports with the ISS. One day we, or they, or both, are going to need them.

  • scribbler

    From the link above: Tiangong’s docking hardware will be compatible with the docking hardware on the ISS, which will enable craft from other countries to rendezvous with the space station. “Scientists of all countries are welcome to participate in space science experimental research on China’s space station,” Jiang Guohua, chief engineer at the China Astronaut Research and Training Center, told

  • John Kwok

    I heard a rather insightful and optimistic appraisal of China’s future plans for space exploration last night on the John Batchelor Show nationally syndicated talk radio program:

    One of the guests (It was either on the 9 – 10 PM or Midnight to 1 AM hour segments) suggested that China will have eventually a program devoted to peaceful manned exploration of space, following in the wake of both the USA and Russia.


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