Tiangong-2 space lab enters preset orbit for docking with manned spacecraft

Updated: 2016-09-26 07:52


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BEIJING - Chinese scientists on Sunday maneuvered the country's Tiangong-2 space lab to a preset orbit 393 kilometers above Earth's surface, in preparation for a planned docking with the Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft set to launch next month.

Tiangong-2, which blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on the back of a Long March-2F T2 rocket on Sept. 15, has already gone through about nine days of on-orbit testing before Sunday's maneuver, according to Li Jian, deputy head of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center.

"All test results suggest the space lab is in good condition," Li said.

Earlier reports said China's future space station, which the country plans to put into service around 2022, will also be orbiting the Earth at approximately the same height - 393 kilometers above ground.

The Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft is expected to carry two astronauts into space to dock with the Tiangong-2 in October. The astronauts will work in the lab for 30 days before returning to Earth.

Li said the docking will be the country's first-ever simulation of future space station docking technologies, which will see the manned spacecraft "catching up with the space station using its own space maneuvering capacities."

In April 2017, China's first space cargo ship Tianzhou-1, which literally means heavenly vessel, will also be sent into orbit to dock with the space lab, providing it with fuel and other supplies.