China is planning to launch its Tiangong-1 space module that will help pave the way for a planned Chinese space station.

The Tiangong-1, also known as Heavenly Palace 1, will blast off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in Gansu province between September 27 and 30 2011.

The 8.5t module, and the Long March II-F rocket that will carry it skyward, have been positioned on the launch pad.

Tiangong-1 will serve as a target spacecraft for rendezvous and docking experiments and it will also work as a platform to test long-term unmanned and short-term manned operations.

China is also planning to launch an unmanned Shenzhou-VIII craft in 2012 to dock with Tiangong-1.