China to reschedule unmanned space module launch

Updated: 2011-09-01 20:35


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BEIJING - Chinese scientists have decided to reschedule the launch of the Tiangong-1, an unmanned space module, due to the failed launch of an experimental orbiter, a spokesperson with the project said Thursday.

The decision to delay the launch was based on the consideration that the carrier rocket Long-March II-F, which would be used for the upcoming launch, belongs to the same series as the malfunctioning one that led to the experimental orbiter SJ-11-04 failing to enter Earth's orbit in August.

"As the investigation into the malfunction of the rocket Long-March II-C remains underway, it is not clear yet whether the malfunction is linked with the Long-March II-F," the unnamed spokesperson said.

Previously, the Long-March II-F was expected to send the 8.5-metric ton Tiangong-1, or "Heavenly Palace 1," into space in the second half of this year to perform the nation's first space-docking procedure.

The Tiangong-1 will dock with the unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft, which will be sent into space after the Tiangong-1's launch.

"The specific launch date for the Tiangong-1 will be set based on the results of the investigation into the malfunctioning rocket," the spokesperson said, adding that the project's teams are currently double-checking every product that will be involved in the space-docking.

The Shenzhou-8 spacecraft, the Long March II-F carrier rocket, and the Tiangong-1 have all been transferred to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gansu Province, the spokesperson said.