China Readies Military Space Station – Launch Coincides With Shuttle Phaseout
Craig Covault writes on Spaceflight Now:
China is aggressively accelerating the pace of its manned space program by developing a 17,000 lb. man-tended military space laboratory planned for launch by late 2010. The mission will coincide with a halt in U.S. manned flight with phase-out of the shuttle.More here.
The project is being led by the General Armaments Department of the People's Liberation Army, and gives the Chinese two separate station development programs.
Shenzhou 8, the first mission to the outpost in early 2011 will be flown unmanned to test robotic docking systems. Subsequent missions will be manned to utilize the new pressurized module capabilities of the Tiangong outpost.
Importantly, China is openly acknowledging that the new Tiangong outpost will involve military space operations and technology development.
Image source: Spaceflight Now