The Shenzhou 7 spacecraft blasted off atop a Long March 2F rocket shortly after 9pm (2300 AEST) under clear night skies in northwestern China. The spacewalk by one of the astronauts is expected to take place either on Friday or Saturday.
“Ming Pao – the Jiuquan Satellite Launch CUI Ji-jun, director of the Center recently revealed that this year the launch of manned spacecraft “God 7”, “God 8” and “God 9” will be unmanned spacecraft, “God 10″ would be a set People spacecraft, launched after the craft and the docking target, after the completion of docking will create space laboratory.”
Shenzhou 7 will leave its free-flying Orbital Module in orbit as has been the case recent flights. Then, over the next several years, two unmanned Shenzhou flights 8 and 9 will be launched and will dock with the Shenzhou 7 orbital module. After that Shenzhou 10 will be launched with a crew and dock with the mini-space station. This would be a human-tended facility – not one with permanent inhabitants.
The history of China’s Project 921 [space station project] is to culminate in orbiting of an 8-metric ton man-tended mini-space station. As of 2007 it was announced that Shenzhou 8 and 9 would be of this configuration, equipped with two docking ports. and launched in 2010. They would then be followed by the manned Shenzhou 10, which would presumably operate the station for a brief period. Then there would be another multi-year delay, with another small man-tended space station being launched in 2012.