Beijing: China is expected to launch its first unmanned space module, which is also known as the "target spacecraft," next year.
Tiangong-1 spacecraft module, which is equipped with two docking ports to serve as a target for a rendezvous docking operation, is expected to enter into orbit in October 2011,
Yan Zhongwen of the China Academy of Space Technology said.
It will first dock with the unmanned Shenzhou 8 spacecraft and then the manned Shenzhou 9 spacecraft, according to Yan.
It is expected that China will establish its first permanent manned space station in 2017, official media here reported.
China`s manned space projects have three steps. The first is the manned technology represented by Shenzhou 5 and Shenzhou 6, which were launched in 2003 and 2005 respectively.
The second step is to set up a short-term manned space station after completing docking and extra-vehicular activities.
The third step is to build a permanent manned space station for space science experiments.