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September 1, 2009

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Lab aloft is China's 1st step to space pod

CHINA will launch two or three space "laboratories" in the next five years in preparation for sending up the country's first manned space station.

The space lab Tiangong-1 will blast off by the end of 2010 from a new seaside space center in south China's Hainan Province, a provincial news Website reported yesterday.

Following the launch of Tiangong, which means "sky palace" in Chinese, several spacecraft will be sent to dock with it as part of a two-year testing and work project, according to the report.

Those steps will be followed by the launch of the core module for China's first space station around 2020, Gu Yidong, commander in chief of China's Manned Space Engineering Program, told a news conference on Sunday.

Gu said the 8.5-ton Tiangong-1 would the first Chinese space module to test docking operations.

The Shenzhou VIII, a planned unmanned flight that follows the country's first spacewalk in the Shenzhou series, will be launched in 2011 and also dock with the Tiangong-1.

The Shenzhou VIII, Shenzhou IX and Shenzhou X spacecraft are now being built - the first time the country has conducted research and production on three spacecraft at the same time, Xinhua news agency reported.


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