UPDATE 4: Shenzhou 8 is in Orbit

UPDATE 4: Shenzhou 8 is in Orbit

UPDATE 4: Shenzhou-8 is in orbit and the solar panels have deployed.

UPDATE 3: Liftoff of Shenzhou-8.

UPDATE 2: Prof. John Lewis of the Lunar and Planetary Laboratory is helping CCTV anchor coverage of the SZ-8 launch.

UPDATE: Live coverage of the launch in English is being carried on China’s CCTV.

ORIGINAL STORY: China Daily reports today that Shenzhou 8 will indeed be launched at 5:58 am November 1 Beijing time (5:58 pm October 31 EDT) confirming an earlier report by the German Aerospace Center.

Shenzhou 8 will not carry a crew. It will dock with China’s Tiangong-1 unoccupied module to form a rudimentary space station. This will be the first rendezvous and docking for China as part of its human spaceflight program. Two more Shenzhou spacecraft will be launched to dock with Tiangong-1 over the next two years; the last of those is expected to carry a crew.

Germany is launching a payload with 17 biological and medical experiments on Shenzhou 8.

The launch is from China’s Jiuquan launch facility in the Gobi desert.

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