Chinese Space Station Set For Launch This Week

Sept 29  Update:  Tiagong-1 successfully launched.

Sept 28 CMSE Update: 
TiangongⅠShenzhouⅧ Rendezvous and Docking Mission Headquarters has decided on its 3rd conference that Tiangong target vehicle is scheduled to be launched during the window that extends from (13:16 UTC) to (13:31 UTC) on September 29, and propellant loading of the launch vehicle will be conducted on September 28, the spokesman of China Manned Space Engineering Office announced today.
China's Tiangong-1 miniature space station is set to launch this week, possibly Thursday or Friday, depending on weather conditions at it's Gobi desert launch site.

Last week the Long March 2F booster, with the Tiangong-1 module snugly encapsulated in it's launch fairing, rolled the one mile distance from it's vertical assembly building to the launch pad.

The Long March 2F is China's man rated booster and is also used to launch the Shenzhou crewed spacecraft.  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 seven launches.

Once in orbit the miniature space station will be used to prefect rendezvous and docking techniques. Later this year, flying unmanned, the Shenzhou 8 spacecraft will attempt an automated docking with Tiangong-1. During 2012 two crewed Shenzhou's are scheduled to visit the station.

 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.

Image credits: China Manned Space Engineering Office.

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