China Launches Rocket With Their First Space Lab
Rising from the Gobi desert launch site a Chinese Long March 2F rocket has carried China's first effort at a space lab, the Tiangong-1, aloft. The milestone event occured 29 September 2011 at 13:16 GMT. The lab is expected to take part in rendezvous manuvers to help China develop experience and expertise with these techniques as a foundation for its manned space program.
Orbiting at an altitude of some 350km, the near term goal in a few weeks is the launch of the Chinese Shenzhou 8 unmanned spacecraft for the first test docking.
Next, in 2012, Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10 with astronauts (yuhangyuans) aboard will dock with the Tiangong-1 and enter the new space laboratory.
The forecast service life of Tiangong-1 is approximately two years. Should this initial effort go smoothly China's promise to build a larger space station by 2020 could come to fruition.