Feeds

Chinese orbital docking starts long march to space station

US commie hunt jumpstarted taikonaut takeoff

Business security measures using SSL

China has successfully launched an unmanned capsule into orbit and is beginning to maneuver it into place for the nation’s first orbital docking.

State media reports that a Shenzhou-8 capsule successfully blasted off from China’s launch platform in the Gobi desert atop an upgraded Long March-2F rocket, watched by Chinese vice premier Zhang Dejiang. It was successfully inserted into its planned orbit, and ground control is now beginning to shift it into position to dock with the Tiangong-1 – "Heavenly Palace-1" – module that has been in orbit since September.

If all goes to plan, the capsule will perform China’s first space docking in two days’ time, 343km above the planet’s surface. After a number of practice docking maneuvers, the capsule will then return to earth for examination and testing.

Successful docking will be crucial if China is to reach its goal of putting a space station into orbit by 2020. Under the plans that are currently public, the station will be a small affair in comparison to the International Space Station or the de-orbited Soviet Mir platform – but out of tiny acorns mighty oak trees grow.

In pure technology terms, the Chinese space program looks relatively unsophisticated. After all, US astronaut Neil Armstrong managed the first space docking in 1966 during the Gemini 8 mission. The Soviets managed it in 1969, and by 1975 the two countries were docking with each other’s crafts. It wasn’t until 1970 that China even got a satellite into orbit – although it’s now been selling orbital delivery to other countries for over 25 years.

The Middle Kingdom wouldn’t have made it this far if it hadn’t been for the 1950s McCarthy-era panic over communist infiltration in America. Qian Xuesen, one of America’s foremost rocket engineers in the 1930s and 1940s, and cofounder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in the US, was arrested in the US after visiting his parents on mainland China in 1950. Accused on the flimsiest of evidence of being a communist, and despite the strong efforts of his university, Caltech, Qian was deported to China in 1955.

Qian, who died at the age of 98 in 2009, is hailed as the father of Chinese rocketry, and was his country's first – and originally only – rocket engineer. He built a group of engineers on his return to China, and helped develop a variety of military systems, including the Silkworm anti-ship missile, as well as building China’s successful Long March boosters. ®

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Saudi Petroleum chooses Tegile storage solution
A storage solution that addresses company growth and performance for business-critical applications of caseware archive and search along with other key operational systems.
Protecting users from Firesheep and other Sidejacking attacks with SSL
Discussing the vulnerabilities inherent in Wi-Fi networks, and how using TLS/SSL for your entire site will assure security.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.