Tiangong-1 is a rendezvous and docking target spacecraft of China's manned space engineering project, mainly developed by China Academy of Space Technology. Adopting a new design and a lot of new technology, Tiangong-1 consists of an experiment module and a support module, which is like a small space station. The experiment module is used for astronauts to live and work, providing them with appropriate living conditions such as cabin pressure, temperature, humidity and gas components. The front part of the experiment module is fitted with a docking mechanism and the measuring and communications equipment used for supporting the rendezvous docking with the spacecraft. The support module can provide power supply for orbit maneuvering and spacecraft orbiting.
Tiangong-1 is expected to be launched aboard an improved Long March-2F launch vehicle in 2011, and dock with Shenzhou-8 spacecraft after in-orbit testing, which is scheduled to be launched later.
China's manned space engineering project follows a "three-step" strategic plan. The first step is to send Chinese astronauts into space, conduct multi-day and multi-manned space flight with safe return to the preset position. The tasks of the first step have been perfectly completed with the Shenzhou-5 to Shenzhou-7 missions. The second step is to make a breakthrough in the key technology of carrying out extravehicular activity and rendezvous docking, send space station into space, and perform short-term manned space applicable experiment. The third step is to build a permanent space laboratory that allows astronauts to conduct long-term manned space applicable experiment.