China completes 2nd space docking test

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The graphics shows the procedure of the second docking between Shenzhou 8 spacecraft and Tiangong-1 space lab module on Nov. 14, 2011. [Xinhua/Lu Zhe]

China's Shenzhou 8 unmanned spacecraft re-docked successfully with the Tiangong-1, a module of the country's planned space lab, Monday evening, according to the mission's control center.

About half an hour before this docking, the Shenzhou 8 had successfully disengaged from Tiangong-1 after a 12-day flight together.

The Shenzhou 8, launched on Nov. 1, rendezvoused and docked with the Tiangong-1 module on Nov. 3 in an orbit 343 km above Earth, marking China's first space docking.

Tiangong-1 has been in orbit since its launch on Sept. 29.

The docking mechanism, composed of up to 10,000 parts, and the more than 600 instruments aboard Shenzhou 8 were all developed and made by China, said Wu Ping, spokeswoman for China's manned space program, at an earlier press conference.

The Shenzhou 8 is set to return to Earth on the evening of Nov. 17, Wu said.

China's spacecraft will conduct two more space docking missions in 2012, and the country plans to establish its own space lab around 2016 and a manned space station around 2020, according to Wu.

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