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Shenzhou-9 enters final pre-launch phase

(Xinhua)

08:06, June 14, 2012

JIUQUAN, Gansu - The Shenzhou-9 went into the final phase of pre-launch preparations on Wednesday ahead of China's first manned space docking mission, as its carrier rocket is being injected with propellant.

The Command Hall of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center is in "ready to launch" status, according to Wang Jun, who will be responsible for turning the ignition key during the actual launch.

The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft, which will perform the historic docking mission with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module, successfully underwent a full-system drill on Tuesday afternoon.

All systems relevant to the mission were found to be in full operating condition, said Cui Jijun, the center's director.

Cui said improvements have been made to ensure the safety of the astronauts participating in the mission.

Simulated emergency flights were added to the full-system test, while the mission's duration was extended from 53 to 59 days in order to more safely accommodate the docking process, Cui said.

The command and surveillance systems at the launch site have been upgraded or modified to improve their accuracy and efficiency, he said.

A sound emergency plan is in place and comprehensive escape drills have been conducted, Cui said.

The Tiangong-1 lab module was launched September 29, 2011 and completed the nation's first space docking mission with the unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft in early November.

The module was brought down to docking orbit in early June and is ready for docking attempts by the Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spacecraft, according to a spokesperson from China's manned space program.

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