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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Andrea Gini

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Andrea Gini is a content strategy consultant specialized in companies of the space sector. He is founder of Space Safety Magazine, where he held the position of Editor-in-Chief until March 2015. Between 2011 and 2013 he worked in the European Space Agency in the Independent Safety Office, which overviews the utilization of the International Space Station. He previously worked as Software Developer, IT Consultant, and trainer of Java-related technologies. Andrea holds a BSc and an MSc in computer science from the University of Milano, a Master in Communication of Science from the International School for Advanced Studies of Trieste and a MSc in Space Studies from the International Space University.