The China National Space Administration has announced plans to launch the first module of a space station in 2011. The station, named Tiangong “Heavenly Place”, will consist of several modules, the first being Tiangong-1. The first module, weighing 8.5 tons and launched aboard a modified China’s Long March 2F rocket, will be unmanned. Over the next two years, three additional modules on Shenzhou spacecraft, each with two or three people, will dock with Tiangong-1. The final configuration will be smaller than the Soviet station, Mir.
Tiangong-1 was scheduled to launch by the end of 2010, but was delayed for technical reasons. It represents the culmination of a larger project, Project 921, started by the Chinese space program in 1992.