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Shenzhou 9 spacecraft  (Source: voanews.com)
China will send its Shenzhou 9 spacecraft to the Tiangong 1 orbital module

China plans to perform its first manned space docking sometime this month after a successful unmanned space docking last November.

China will send its Shenzhou 9 spacecraft to the Tiangong 1 orbital module at some point in June 2012, but the exact date hasn't been specified yet. The Shenzhou 9 already made its way to the launch platform at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center last Saturday, which is in northwest China.

Over the next few days, a series of tests on the spacecraft, carrier rocket, ground systems and astronauts will take place. There will be three astronauts aboard the Shenzhou 9, and females may be considered as part of the crew.

This manned mission comes after China launched its first successful unmanned mission last November. The Shenzhou 8 docked with the Tiangong 1 orbital module, marking China's commitment to its space-related goals.

Last December, China described its five-year space plans in a report released by the government. According to the blueprint, the country wants to construct space stations, ship freighters, space laboratories and a manned spaceship through the end of 2016.

China also said it plans to use probes to explore the moon's surface as well as asteroids, planets and the sun, and it wants to improve launch vehicles, meteorological satellites, communications and broadcasting to form a global satellite navigation system.

The U.S. recently made a successful space docking of its own, where SpaceX became the first private company to dock an unmanned spacecraft at the International Space Station (ISS). Since that successful flight, SpaceX has entered into an agreement with satellite service provider Intelsat for its Falcon Heavy rocket, and will make additional trips to the ISS for NASA as well.

Source: The New York Times





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