Live: China launches Shenzhou 8

November 1, 2011

Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the launch of the Shenzhou 8 spacecraft, a planned unmanned flight of China's Shenzhou program, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Inner Mongolia. Please stay on this page for our latest updates about this event. 
 -- All time Beijing Time (GMT+0800) --

  07:48:43: Well, that's it for our live coverage for today. Thank you very much for keeping us company - we'll be back again in two days for the docking of Tiangong 1 and Shenzhou 8.

China announces launch of Shenzhou 8 successful

  07:41:11: The space docking tests and experiments will provide crucial experience of China's construction of a 60-tonne permanent manned space station around 2020 when Chinese astronauts are expected to operate more research projects in space. "It will make it possible for China to carry out space exploration of a larger scale," said Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China's manned space program.

07:37:31: Sina Weibo: Experts say the docking of Tiangong 1 and Shenzhou 8 will be the next focus. The job of the rockets has been accomplished, but Tiangong 1's work has just begun. Tiangong 1 is still floating quietly in orbit, but the excitement of the docking is on the way. Let's look forward to it together! Posted by [Machinery Self-reliance Society of Dalian University of Technology]

  07:20:58: China is investing heavily in its space program. It has already launched two satellites to the Moon, and a third mission is expected to put a rover on the lunar surface.

07:19:58: Sina Weibo: Zhang Bonan, chief designer of Shenzhou 8, said there are four difficulties in the docking of Shenzhou 8 and Tiangong 1: The plan is complicated, the space environment is complex and the organization and implementation of the docking procedure is intricate. Moreover, Shenzhou 8 was developed and built quickly. Posted by []

  07:15:25: The crew members, including probably two female astronauts, have already been selected for the possible manual space docking mission in 2012 and are being trained for manual docking skills.

  07:08:03: Assuming the venture goes well, two manned missions -- Shenzhou 9 and 10 -- are likely to attempt similar dockings in 2012.

  07:02:14: TianGong 1 and Shenzhou 8 will stay docked for 12 days, after that undocking will occur and a second docking manoeuvre will take place. After another period of docking, the unmanned spacecraft will be commanded via autonomous flight to return to Earth.

06:52:46: Sina Weibo: Congratulations on the successful launch of Shenzhou 8. Posted by [Liwj Li Moumou]

  06:50:47: China has taken the next step in its quest to become a major space power with the launch of the unmanned Shenzhou 8 vehicle.

  06:48:56: Provided everything continues to go according to plan, the docking of Tiangong 1 and Shenzhou 8 is expected to take place on Nov. 3 after staff on the ground confirm systems on both vehicles are working properly.

  06:45:02: The Shenzhou 8 module, part of China's nascent space station, is an experimental space laboratory that will be mainly used to test rendezvous and docking technologies and accumulate experience building, managing and operating a space station.

06:41:43: Sina Weibo: Wish Shenzhou 8 the best. Let's go, China! Remember this historic moment: 5:58:07 a.m. Nov. 1, 2011. Shenzhou 8's launch was a success! Posted by [lonely tribe]

China unmanned spacecraft launches

  06:34:49: The docking will happen within two days after the launch of the Shenzhou 8 at a height of 343 km above Earth's surface. The spacecraft will return to Earth after two docking operations.

  06:33:40: The launch of Shenzhou 8 was attended by Chinese Vice Premier Zhang Dejiang. It was also observed by senior experts from the European Space Agency and the German Aerospace Center at the launch site.

  06:28:12: The mission of Shenzhou 8 is scheduled for a mission of three weeks, during which time it is expected to dock twice with unmanned space module TianGong 1 that was launched on September 29.

06:23:05: Sina Weibo: Exciting! Shenzhou 8 is launched successfully. I am proud of China! Posted by [Baofaba_Baozi]

  06:21:27: Commander-in-chief of China's manned space program Chang Wanquan announced Tuesday morning that the launch of Shenzhou 8 spacecraft is successful.

China declares Shenzhou 8 launch successful

  06:20:30: The Shenzhou 8 spacecraft has successfully entered a low Earth orbit after it blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China.

06:19:43: Sina Weibo: The live broadcast of the launch of Shenzhou 8…My heart races. I’m so happy! Posted by [Xiao ho wants to learn songs with Xiao Wan]

  06:14:28: The Shenzhou 8 spacecraft opened its two solar panels after separating with carrier rocket.

  06:11:28: The Shenzhou 8 spacecraft successfully separated from its carrier rocket, a modified Long March-2F, at a height of about 200 km above the Earth.

  06:06:19: As of 6 a.m. on Nov. 1, the 8-ton Tiangong 1 target vehicle has been orbiting earth for 32 days, 8 hours and 34 minutes, making 511 laps around the planet.

  05:59:46: China's unmanned spacecraft Shenzhou 8 blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest desert area on Tuesday.

China's unmanned spacecraft Shenzhou 8 blasts off

  05:54:56: Shenzhou 8 in 5-minute countdown to launch.

  05:48:49: Staff members at the launch pad are making final preparations for blastoff. The 297 people working at the site will evacuate the area 30 minutes before the launch.

  05:48:56: Shenzhou 8 in 10-minute countdown to launch.

  05:46:34: All teams are in place and ready at the command and control center of Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Weather conditions look favorable for the launch: the temperature is about 2 degrees Celsius with a slight breeze and visibility of about 30 kilometers.

  05:28:57:  Shenzhou 8 will take off at 5:58 a.m. on Nov. 1 from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, carried into space by a modified version of the Long March CZ-2F rocket, a spokeswoman for China's manned space program said.

  18:28:40: Shenzhou 8, the unmanned spacecraft is expected to practice China's first space docking with the orbiting space lab module Tiangong-1. The technology is crucial to build the nation's first space station.Since some developed countries acquired docking technology decades ago, China plans to catch up by using more speed and cutting costs, said Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China's manned space program.

  18:18:28: After two docking tryouts with Tiangong-1 in the same mission, Shenzhou-8 will return to the Earth and Tiangong-1 will wait for the next docking tests.

  18:13:15: Tim Robinson, editor of Aerospace International, said the way China is approaching space docking is very different from other countries. "Unlike the U.S. which started with manually flown dockings, in Gemini for example, China is attempting an automated docking first and then manned dockings. This probably reduces the human risk to crew, but it is also very ambitious," he said.

17:55:30: Sina Weibo: Shenzhou 8 is so cool! When can ordinary people like you and me make a space travel? Posted by Pistachio Nuts z.

  17:22:45: China is considering sending female astronauts into space during its space docking missions next year. Two female astronauts have been selected for possible flights when spacecraft Shenzhou 9 and 10 are scheduled to dock with space lab module Tiangong-1 in 2012, said Chen Shanguang, director of the Astronaut Center of China (ACC).

  17:20:20: The modified Long March-2F rocket, with a length of 58.3 meters, has a liftoff weight of 497 tonnes and a payload capacity of 8.13 tonnes. The updated rocket is more powerful than previous versions in terms of thrust.

16:52:24: Sina Weibo: Shenzhou 8 is scheduled to be launched tomorrow morning. Suppose you are aboard this time, what do you want to do in outer space? Just tell me whatever you think of. Posted by Imp.

  16:48:53: "Although Shenzhou 8 is unmanned, we equipped the spacecraft with devices recording real images and mechanical parameters during its flight, both of which are vital to future manned missions," the spokeswoman Wu Ping said.

  16:16:53: China plans to fulfill its first ever manual space docking by 2012, probably with women astronauts.

  16:11:16: As one of the nation's three satellite launch bases in use, the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwest Gobi desert, has undertaken the majority of launches for China's space missions.

The Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center

  15:46:26: Nearly 100 contingency plans have been prepared and exercised to address problems that may occur during the mission, Wu Ping said, adding that all people involved in the mission are confident about a successful docking.

  15:51:57: "It is fairly difficult and risky to link up two vehicles travelling at high speeds in orbit, with a margin of error of no more than 20 centimeters," Wu Ping,a spokeswoman for China's manned space program told a press conference Monday.

  15:37:37:The aerospace community considers space rendezvous and docking between orbiters a difficult technology and highly risky.

  15:35:40: Shenzhou 8 is expected to perform China's first-ever space rendezvous and docking when it joins up with Tiangong-1. The docking technologies are believed to be crucial for China's ambition to build a permanent manned space station around 2020.

  15:10:38: "China welcomes astronauts from other countries to participate in our space station and other manned space programs," Yang Liwei, China's first astronaut who was heaved into space in 2003 said.

14:37:05: Sina Weibo: I was a sixth grader in elementary school when Shenzhou 5 was launched into space. Now it's turn for Shenzhou 8. That's great! Best wishes to our great motherland. Posted by I'm Little Li Jiajia

  13:51:48: Shenzhou 8 is expected to dock with an experimental space module Tiangong-1 that was put into orbit on Sept. 29. The practice will take place within two days after the launch of Shenzhou 8, the latest step in what will be a decade-long effort to place a manned permanent space station in orbit.

  13:12:17: Spokeswoman Wu Ping said at a press briefing Monday morning that China plans to launch in 2012 spaceships Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10, which are expected to dock with China's first space lab module, Tiangong-1.

  13:14:42: "If we liken the return capsule on the spacecraft Shenzhou 5 that took me into space to a one-room apartment, the future space station China is trying to build might be compared to a spacious villa," Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei said Sunday.

Astronaut says future space station a 'villa'

  13:11:19: China will invite foreign officials and experts to observe the launch of the Shenzhou 8 spacecraft at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the northwest Gobi desert, Wu Ping, who is heading the science and technology planning bureau under the office of China's manned space program said Sunday.

  12:25:37:The unmanned spacecraft Shenzhou 8 is scheduled to be launched at 5:58 a.m.(Local Time),on November 1, 2011.