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China Prepares for Next Human Spaceflight

China's Shenzhou 10 piloted spacecraft shipped to launch site. Credit: CMSE

China is readying its next human spaceflight mission – Shenzhou -10. That three-person craft is headed toward an early June liftoff from the country’s launch center in Jiuquan, Gansu province.

According to Chinese space officials, the piloted Shenzhou-10 will appraise both automated and manual space docking with a previously orbited space module, Tiangong-1, then the crew will conduct scientific experiments in the lab module and transmit science lectures to spectators on Earth.

The already in orbit Tiangong-1 module was lofted into Earth orbit in September 2011.

A Shenzhou-8 unpiloted spacecraft docked with Tiangong-1 in November 2011.

A trio of Chinese “Taikonauts” onboard Shenzhou-9 in June last year — including China’s first female space traveler — latched up with the module, verifying China’s space docking capabilities – a step toward China’s interest in building a larger space station.

China has previously announced plans to build a space station around 2020.

Testing phase to application phase

Yang Liwei, deputy director of China Manned Space Engineering Office, has stated that the Chinese astronauts on the next mission will be veterans and may include a woman.

Shenzhou-10’s agenda is to improve docking technology and procedures in space, along with ringing out environment control and other life support systems for human space travel.

According to Bao Weimin, the technological division chief of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. that manufactured the spacecraft, Shenzhou-10 will help the space transportation system move from the testing phase to the application phase.

By Leonard David

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