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China's new space station preps for takeoff

But is "Heavenly Palace" impossible to dock with the International Space Station?
China space station 2011 09 21Enlarge
China prepares to launch the space module "Tianqong-1" or "Heavenly Palace" between Sept. 27-30. (STR/AFP/Getty Images)

China's auspiciously titled "Heavenly Palace 1," an 8.5-ton set of interconnecting rooms, will be floating above earth by the end of September.

Heavenly Palace is just the first of several interlocking chambers that will form a full-on space station by 2020, according to the state-managed Xinhua outlet.

Officials plan to launch Heavenly Palace into space by Sept. 30.

By next year, China's astronauts plan to complete at least one manned docking with the craft. So far, only the U.S. and Russia have the proven ability to dock with orbiting space stations, a feat that one Chinese scientist compared to "asking two racing cars to keep a distance of 1 meter between them," reports the China Daily.

The coming assembly of China's orbiting space module will also prove whether China plans to snub its American and Russian space pals.

According to the Space.com site, China's station isn't designed to dock with the International Space Station manned by the U.S., Russia and to a lesser extent Japan and European nations.

China's first astronaut, who is also a senior space official, said in July that China desired international cooperation but had not designed the module to dock with the existing station, according to Space.com.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatches/globalpost-blogs/the-rice-bowl/chinas-new-space-station-preps-takeoff