China Succeeds in First Automatic Docking Attempt


A stil frame of the Shenzou Tiangong docking (Source: CNTV).

China performed its first automatic docking experiment on Wednesday November 2. After a two-day travel, the Shenzhou 8 spacecraft approached the Tiangong 1 experimental space station module. At 1:30 p.m. EDT (1730 GMT; 1:30 a.m. local time Thursday in China), the docking probe of the Shenzhou latched into the space station. Ten minutes after the capture, the docking was completed. “Tiangong 1 has joined Shenzhou 8, has completed the rendezvous and docking process,” said Chang Wanquan, chief commander of the China Manned Space Engineering Project, “I announce the docking of Shenzhou 8 and Tiangong 1 has been a complete success.”

China is planning to deploy a modular space station by  2020. Mastery of rendezvous and docking is a necessary step in that direction. The Shenzhou 8 will perform additional docking experiments, before the end of the mission. Later in 2012, a crewed Shenzhou 10 will perform a docking, followed by a human mission inside the space station module.

In the video, below, the docking sequence between Shenzhou 8 and Tiangong 1.

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About the author

Andrea Gini

Andrea Gini

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Andrea Gini is a scientific journalist and a professional of the space industry, working as a contractor on ISS Payload Safety. He is the Editor-in-chief of the Space Safety Magazine. Andrea is also Chairman of the Information and Communication Committee of the International Association for Advancement in Space Safety (IAASS), publisher of the Space Safety Magazine, and he is responsible for the communication strategy of the association, Andrea holds a BSc and an MSc in computer science from the University of Milano, a Master in scientific journalism from the International School for Advanced Studies of Trieste and a MSc in Space Studies from the International Space University.