China sets up management body for orbiting space lab

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China has established an operation committee for management of the country's first space lab module, Tiangong-1, during its two-year orbit of earth.

The committee will deal with operations planning, technical appraisal and flight control of the target orbiter after the unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft returns to earth after its mission, the official website of China's manned space program said.

The Tiangong-1 space lab module was launched on Sept. 29 and docked with Shenzhou-8 precisely on Nov. 3, China's first ever space docking attempt. The second docking between Tiangong-1 and Shenzhou-8 is scheduled for Nov. 14.

The manned space program said earlier that the same target orbiter Tiangong-1 will accommodate another two docking missions performed by two other Shenzhou spaceships, at least one of which will be manned.

The 8.5-tonne Tiangong-1 is the first space lab module that China has built, and the committee will also be the first in taking care of a long-running space asset.

The operation committee for Tiangong-1 heralds China's manned space program entering a new phase for lengthy flight missions, Niu Hongguang, director of the operation committee, said on the website

The orbiting module management will include taking care of the space lab, making preparations for any further docking tests and gathering experience for building a future space station, Niu said.

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