Tuesday June 2, 2020

China Launches New Space Station Module

September 29, 2011

China launched its first unmanned space module from the Jiuquan spaceport in the Gobi Desert at 21:16 local time (13:16 GMT). The Tiangong-1 space lab – “heavenly palace” in Chinese – is a 10.5m-long, 8.5-ton module that will operate autonomously until later this year, when a second unmanned aircraft, Shenzhou 8, will be launched and linked with the module. The success of these steps is considered essential for China’s plans to launch its first space station in three sections between 2020 and 2022. Shenzhou 8 will be used to practice remote-control docking maneuvers with Tiangong-1, and two more missions, at least one manned, are planned for the coming year.

The launch of Tiangong-1 is only the latest development in China’s ambitious space program. In 2003, China joined the U.S. and Russia as the only countries to put humans into orbit. In 2007, the state successfully destroyed a defunct Chinese weather satellite with a remotely launched ballistic missile. China now surpasses the United States in the frequency of satellites launched, and is quickly completing the BeiDou 2 satellite system, which will provide high-accuracy positioning services for Chinese users.

Image from BBC


China’s heavy push for scientific and technological modernization can also be seen in other dimensions. Earlier this year, reports suggested that China will soon surpass the U.S. in publication of scientific research, and just this week Ford announced that it will be teaming up with Chinese companies to develop electric vehicles in the coming decade.

The latest subway crash in Shanghai this week, however, has revived criticisms that in the rush of technological modernization, the state is sacrificing safety for expediency.  Li Hongchang, a professor of economics and management at Beijing Jiaotong University, said, “Given the serious traffic jam problems in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai, generally it is better to have more subways and have them earlier.” However, he said, the rush to build has meant that construction often starts before projects are fully designed. Zhang Xide, an economics professor at the Chinese Academy of Governance, agrees. “Infrastructure investment is irreversible,” he said. “If something goes wrong, the cost is high.” Along with the space program, however, rapid modernization in urban centers has been a point of pride for many Chinese, and there is little indication that projects will be delayed.


For further information on China’s space program and other scientific developments, please visit:

China Daily – “China’s 1st space module Tiangong-1 blasts off

BBC – “Rocket launches Chinese space lab

USA Today – “China launches module for space station

The Guardian – “China poised to overhaul US as biggest publisher of scientific papers

Reuters – “Ford says it will produce electric cars in China

USA Today – “Shanghai subway crash revives safety concerns

For Chinese commentary on the Tiangong-1 space module, please see:

Xinhua – “天宫一号顺利升空

People’s Daily下半年连发“天宫”“神八”是我国航天发射新突破



Compiled and edited by Grace Carroll.