China expects its first space station “Tiangong 1” to be orbiting the Earth in early 2011.
The 8.5-ton Tiangong-1 (Tiangong means “heavenly palace” in Chinese) is scheduled to lift off on a Long March 2F carrier rocket and serve as a docking station for three Shenzhou spacecraft – the Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9, and Shenzhou-10. The Shenzhou-8, currently under construction, will dock at the Tiangong-1 as it orbits the Earth, sometime in the second half of 2011. The Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spaceships are scheduled to be launched in 2012.
Eventually, after the Shenzhou dockings, Tiangong-1 will serve as a manned space lab and will expand as the Tiangong-2 and Tiangong-3 merge with the primary space module. According to Chinese authorities, the Tiangong-2 is scheduled to be completed by 2013 and the Tiangong-3 will be finished sometime later, possibly between 2014 and 2016.
Source: China News Service, September 23, 2010