BEIJING - China said on Wednesday it will launch within weeks its first spacecraft capable of docking with a module it put into orbit last month, in what will mark a crucial test of its growing space program.
The unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft, carried by the Long March-2F rocket, will blast off in early November, state media reported, and will later try to dock with the Tiantong-1, or "Heavenly Palace-1" space laboratory module China launched in September.
Officials with China's space program have said the docking tests will provide experience for the building of a permanent manned space station around 2020.
It is also the latest in a long string of Chinese space launches that have burnished national pride, as budget restraints and shifting priorities have held back US manned space launches.
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