On November 1, 2011 at 05:58 Beijing time (on October 31 at 21:58 UTC) China launched the "Shenzhou-8” unmanned spacecraft in the country’s first ever attempt to dock two space vehicles.
The "Chang Zheng-2F” ("Long March-2F”) rocket carrying "Shenzhou-8” lifted off from the Jiuquan space center in the Gobi Desert in northwestern China's Inner Mongolia province.
The spacecraft is heading for rendezvous with the "Tiangong-1” ("the Heavenly Palace") space lab module that was put into space on September 29 for the country's first space docking. The "Shenzhou-8” is expected to dock with Tiangong-1 in two days and orbit the Earth in tandem for 12 days. The spacecraft will then separate and attempt a re-docking. Finally, "Shenzhou-8” will detach and head back to Earth.
The 8.5-tone "Tiangong-1” module will remain in the 340-km orbit for two years, operating mainly in an unmanned regime, although it is capable of carrying up to three astronauts for 20 days.