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
China will soon have an outpost in space. The government has announced that its first unmanned space module, the Tiangong-1 (or “The Heavenly Palace”), will be launched next year.
The module will serve as a docking station for other spacecraft before being transformed into a permanent taikonaut residence and space lab within two years of the launch [Nature blog]. It was originally due to launch this year, but now will see flight only late in 2011, due to technical reasons, Chinese officials said. The Tiangong-1 is expected to be 30 feet long and capable of housing three taikonauts; future missions will add other modules to construct a larger Chinese space station.