Following closely upon the spacecraft's launch, China's Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft has successfully completed an automated docking with the orbiting Tiangong-2 space lab at 3:31 a.m. Wednesday, Beijing Time, according to Beijing Aerospace Control Center (BACC).
Shenzhou-11 was launched on Monday morning from northwest China's Gobi Desert. The rendezvous occurred about 393 kilometers above Earth. The two astronauts aboard Shenzhou-11—Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong—monitored and reported on the docking operation and relayed their findings to the control center. According to the mission schedule, once they enter the space module, the astronauts will remain residents for 30 days.
Shenzhou-11, China's sixth manned spacecraft, will undertake the nation's longest space mission with the two astronauts spending a total of 33 days in space. Sun Jun, the deputy chief engineer of BACC, told Xinhua that the precision needed for the orbit prediction and automated docking calculation was much higher than previous docking missions.
China is the third country, after the United States and Russia, to complete successfully space rendezvous and docking procedures. Tiangong-2 was sent into space on September 15th and is China's first space lab as well as a key step in building a permanent space station, which China aims to accomplish by 2020.
Article information sourced from China.org.cn.