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China Prepares for Important Piloted Spaceflight Mission

China's Long March booster undergoes checkout to support upcoming piloted mission. Credit: CMSE

China is readying its crew-carrying Shenzhou-9 spacecraft to conduct that country’s first piloted docking mission.

Shenzhou-9 will have three astronauts onboard – a crew that may include a woman — to manually rendezvous and dock with the already orbiting Tiangong-1.

Last year, China’s unpiloted Shennzhou-8 docked with the Tiangong-1as a step toward the upcoming mission, expected to occur between June and August.

The Shenzhou-9 booster, the Long March-2F, is undergoing final checkout at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China. It arrived there on May 9th.

Once linked up to the Tiangong-1 space lab, the Shenzhou-9’s three-person crew will board the spacecraft, living there and conducting scientific experiments.

The Tiangong-1 was lofted into Earth orbit on Sept. 29, 2011.

By Leonard David

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