November 14, 2011
China Successfully Docks Space Modules A Second Time
China successfully docked space modules together for a second time on Monday, according to its Xinhua news agency.
The country's Shenzhou-8 unmanned spacecraft re-docked successfully with the Tiangong-1 module.
The news report said about half an hour before the re-docking, Shenzhou-8 had disengaged from Tiangong-1 after a 12-day flight together.
Shenzhou-8 launched on November 1 and rendezvoused and docked with the Tiangong-1 spacecraft on November 3.
The Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC) called the re-docking a success, according to the Xinhua news agency.
During the re-docking, functions of the measuring equipment and docking mechanism were tested in solar light.
Wu Ping, spokeswoman for the manned space program, told Xinhua that the coupled spacecraft will fly together for two more days before the scheduled return of the Shenzhou-8 to Earth.
BACC said on Monday, according to the news agency, that after the successful docking test, the center will further modify the parameters of the orbit for Shenzhou-8 to return based on data collected through close monitoring over the procedures.
Li Jian, deputy chief engineer of BACC, said the Shenzhou-8 will re-disengage from Tiangong-1 and fly alone for a period of time.
"Acquisition of the space docking technology is vital to China for implementing the three-phase development strategy of its manned space program," spokeswoman Wu told Xinhua.
Wu said another two docking missions with Tiangong-1 have been planned next year, and at least one of them will be manned.
She said China plans to establish its own space lab around 2016 and a manned space station around 2020.