China to launch Shenzhou VIII early November
Updated: 2011-10-26 18:51
The Shenzhou VIII spacecraft is assembled with the Long-March II-F rocket at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China's Gansu province on Oct 23, 2011. The unmanned Shenzhou VIII, part of China's first spacecraft rendezvous and docking mission, was reported to be launched in early November.[Photo/CFP]
JIUQUAN - China will launch the spacecraft Shenzhou VIII in early November at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest desert area.
The unmanned spacecraft is expected to perform China's first space docking with Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace-1, a space lab module that was launched in September from the same launch center.
The spacecraft and its carrier rocket, an upgraded Long March-2F, were transferred on Wednesday morning on a 20-meter-wide railway to the launch pad.
The launch pad is 1,500 meters away from the assembling and testing center. It took nearly two hours to complete the transfer.
Technicians completed testing on the assembling of Shenzhou VIII and the rocket after they were delivered to the launch center at the end of August, said Lu Jinrong, the launch center's chief engineer.
In the next few days, the launch center will continue testing the spacecraft and the rocket, and inject propellent before the final launch in early November, Lu said.
The assembling, testing and transferring of the spacecraft and rocket were all conducted while they were vertical.
Shenzhou VIII is capable of docking with the spacecraft Tiangong-1 in both manual and automatic modes.
The Tiangong-1 space lab module is functioning smoothly in the orbit, and all equipment and experiments are going well, according to Lu. The module is ready for the docking task, Lu said.