by Staff Writers
Beijing (XNA) Nov 22, 2011
Chinese orbiter Tiangong-1 has entered into long-term operation management in space after docking twice with the unmanned spacecraft Shenzhou-8, a committee in charge of the orbiter's management duty said Saturday.
Tiangong-1's shift from short-term in-orbit operation to long-term operation with temporary human attendance is a landmark for China's manned space program, the committee for the long-term operation management of Tiangong-1 said.
The move will help China accumulate experiences for its follow-up space tests and missions related to the country's construction of a planned space station, the committee said.
Shenzhou-8, launched on Nov. 1 and safely returned to earth Thursday evening, marked the full success of China's first space docking mission joining the unmanned spacecraft with the target module Tiangong-1, which was launched on Sept. 29.
Liu Junze, an orbiter management official with the Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC), which commanded the space docking mission, said the center will control Tiangong-1's flight for its long-term operation management.
Under the BACC control, Tiangong-1 will perform regular orbiting and gesture adjustments, as well as coordinate with ground-based application systems for carrying out scientific experiments and accumulating research data, Liu said.
China plans to establish its own space lab around 2016 and a manned space station around 2020. The country has announced that two docking missions with Tiangong-1 are planned for next year, and at least one will be manned.
Altitude of space lab readjusted for dockings in 2012
The operations were in preparation for another docking attempts with two Chinese space vehicles which are scheduled to be launched next year, BACC senior engineer Tang Geshi said.
Tang noted that it would require less altitude adjustments for Tiangong-1 to dock with Shenzhou-9 in an orbit 343 km above earth, as the target orbiter would gradually lose its altitude due to atmospheric drag, from the current 382 km above earth, during the wait.
Tiangong-1 was launched on September 29, while Shenzhou-8 was launched on Nov. 1 to fulfill China's first space docking mission.
The two orbiters successfully docked twice with each other on Nov. 3 and Nov. 14 separately. The Shenzhou-8 re-entry module landed in northern China Thursday evening.
China has announced its plan of another two docking missions with Tiangong-1 next year, with at least one manned. The country plans to establish its own space lab in 2016 and a manned space station in 2020.
Source: Source: Xinhua
The Chinese Space Program - News, Policy and Technology
China News from SinoDaily.com
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