Its not very much compared to the ISS but none the less a very impressive national achievement for China. While we are floundering with dead space systems and indecision about future systems China is moving ahead with an entirely new modular rocket system in the Long March 5, building a new launch facility on Hainan Island, orbiting manned space ships, launching space laboratory modules, and preparing for eventual missions to the moon and beyond.
China today launched the Shenzhou-8 capsule on a historic mission to accomplish the nation’s first ever docking in space with another vehicle, already in orbit, and pave the way toward’s China’s true ambition – constructing a multi-module space station by 2020.
The unpiloted Shenzhou-8 streaked skywards today in a blinding flash atop a powerful and upgraded Long March 2F/Y8 carrier rocket in the early morning darkness and precisely on time at 5:58 a.m. Beijing time (5:58 p.m. EDT) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert in northwest China. Viewers could watch a live TV broadcast from state media broadcast in English.
The Long March first stage is augmented with four liquid fueled strap on boosters. Spectacular TV views show the boosters and payload fairings being jettisoned.
The goal of the mission is for China to master critical and complex rendezvous and docking technologies and link up with China’s 1st orbiting prototype space station module dubbed Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace-1.