Spacecraft Tiangong-1 launch delayed

Updated: 2011-09-02 07:25

By Xin Dingding (China Daily)

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BEIJING - The launch of the spacecraft Tiangong-1, part of China's first spacecraft rendezvous and docking mission, has been rescheduled due to a satellite launch failure last month, China's manned space program spokesman said on Thursday.

The spokesman said the exact date will depend on the results of the investigation into the failed satellite.

Tiangong-1, the target spacecraft to be docked with three spaceships from 2011 to 2012, is to be launched in the third quarter of this year, according to earlier reports. It and its launch vehicle, Long March II-F, were transported to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in July for testing.

The mission command's worries stem from the fact that the Long March II-F rocket, which will be used to send Tiangong-1 into orbit, and the Long March II-C rocket that failed to send the experimental satellite into orbit, belong to the same series of launch vehicles.

Earlier reports said that Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace-1, and three Shenzhou spaceships will test rendezvous and docking technology in 2011 and 2012 and prepare for the future construction of space laboratories and eventually a space station by 2020.

The unmanned Shenzhou VIII spaceship is expected to be launched in the fourth quarter of this year. It was transported to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Aug 26 as planned, said a spokesman with China Manned Space Engineering Office in a news release on Thursday.

Though the news came as a disappointment to some, many others applauded the decision.

Liu Ningzhe, a netizen from Beijing, said in her micro blog: "It takes courage to pause in today's China, where everything is developing rapidly ... Though it is postponed, we can wait."