Shenzhou 8

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Shenzhou 8's docking mission with Tiangong-1 (L)

Shenzhou 8 (Chinese: 神舟八号) is an unmanned spacecraft of China’s Shenzhou Program that lifted off on November 1, 2011. It will be remotely docked with the operational Tiangong-1 space module, which was launched on September 29. Shenzhou 8 will be joined by the manned Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10 craft, which are scheduled to be launched in 2012. This will complete China’s latest aeronautical plan to set up a space station. The plan is known as Project 921-2.

Shenzhou 8 is propelled into orbit by the Long March 2F (CZ-2F) Rocket, China’s long-used spacecraft carrier, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Inner Mongolia. Shenzhou 8’s mission, which will last approximately 12 days, is to perform China's first-ever space rendezvous and docking. The project was announced three years ago by Zhan Jianqi, former vice director of China manned space engineering in an interview with China Central Television (CCTV).

According to Zhang Bainan, the chief designer of China’s spacecraft systems, there are unlikely to be further significant alterations to the design of China’s spacecraft after Shenzhou 8. China plans to send a batch of astronauts to its first space station aboard Shenzhou 9 in 2012.

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