Sunday, October 30, 2011

China's Shenzhou 8 docking mission ready to launch.

China has scheduled the launch of it's unmanned Shenzhou 8 for 31 October at 5:57 pm EDT (21:57 GMT; 1 Nov 5:57 am local time).  Shenzhou is China's manned spacecraft, but will be flying un-crewed for this flight. Shenzhou 8 will attempt to dock with the experimental space station module Tiangong 1, launched in late September.

Shenzhou 8 will be launched by a Long March 2F booster. The two stage rocket with four strap on boosters can place 19,000 lbs into low earth orbit. It has a 100% success rate in eight launches.
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The Shenzhou 8 mission is the latest step in what will be a decade-long effort to place a manned permanent space station in orbit. Shenzhou 8 is scheduled to dock with the Tiangong 1 station two days after launch. The two will remain docked for twelve days, at which time the Shenzhou 8 will undock and then redock with Tiangong-1 before finally departing and returning to earth. Tiangong-1 will then raise it's orbit and await the arrival of it's first crew on Shenzhou 9 next year.

Shenzhou 8 will feature a Russian androgynous docking module in place of the usual orbital module, and will perform its docking operation under ground control.

The mission will also feature a biological sample supplied by the European Space Agency, which has been cited as an example of "international cooperation in the field of manned space" by Zhang Jianqi, deputy chief commander of China's manned space program.
Tiangong-1, meaning "heavenly palace," weighs about 19,000 pounds. It measures 13 feet in diameter and about 40 feet in length. It's intended to be used for about 18 months. China plans to build a 60 ton space station by 2020

The official Xinhua News Agency said Wednesday that the ship will carry out a series of maneuvers to couple with the Tiangong 1 module that was launched late last month and has been functioning as expected. It cited the launch center's chief engineer, Lu Jinrong.

The ship and it's booster were transferred early Wednesday to the launch pad at the Jiuquan space base on the edge of the Gobi desert in northern China.

Sources:
China to launch unmanned space mission next month - Yahoo! News:
Shenzhou 8 - Wikipedia