Tag Archives: Shenzhou

Prototypes of China’s core space station module and new manned spacecraft arrive at launch site

The new colonial movement: Prototypes of China’s core space station module and its new upgraded manned capsule have been delivered to the Long March 5B launch site.

The space station module will be used to test the installation and launch procedures for launching the actual module on the Long March 5B rocket. The manned capsule will be sent into orbit unmanned this spring on the Long March 5B to test both the rocket and the capsule, prior to human operations. This detail from the short article however is worth noting:

The new-generation manned spacecraft is 8.8 meters long and has a takeoff weight of 21.6 tonnes. It will be used for transporting crew to the space station and to conduct China’s future manned lunar missions.

Apparently in upgrading its Shenzhou manned spacecraft China has made it 0.3 meters longer and about four tons heavier. In fact, this manned ferry for getting to and from its space station is as heavy as a standard module used on both Mir and ISS. I could be wrong, but if this is the case they will require the Long March 5 or 5B for every manned flight. Since this rocket is large and expensive, it will be difficult to use it for maintaining a frequent launch pace, thus limiting the number of manned missions.

As I said, I could be wrong. Up until now I had assumed that a variant of the Long March 5 would be used to launch the station modules, and the smaller Long March 2F rocket used to ferry astronauts to it (as was done on all previous Chinese manned missions). This could still be the case.

If not, however, China’s space engineers have either put a limit on what they can achieve by overbuilding that manned capsule, or their government has made a major commitment to put a lot of tonnage into orbit. If the latter China’s space program is going to be quite competitive indeed.

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China’s next manned mission

The competition heats up: The next Chinese manned mission will occur in the fall of 2016 and will have the astronauts remain in space for 30 days on a new space station launched during the summer.

After the astronauts have completed their flight, China will then launch their first unmanned cargo craft, dubbed Tianzhou-1, to dock with the station, using a new medium-lift rocket, Long March 7, which will get its first test flight this coming June.

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New China manned vehicle under development

The competition heats up: China has begun development of two versions of a second generation manned capsule.

Instead of the three-module arrangement of the current Shenzhou vehicle, the future Chinese crew vehicle will adopt a two-module arrangement, with a large inhabitable crew module at the front, and an uninhabitable cylindrical-shaped service module at back. The size of the re-entry vehicle will be twice of Shenzhou’s, capable of accommodating up to six crew members. A docking port and its associated docking sensors are fitted to the front-end of the crew module. The spacecraft can be fitted with two different service modules, with different propulsion systems and propellant capacities.

In other words, rather than copy and upgrade the design of the Russian Soyuz, as they did with their Shenzhou capsule, they will copy and upgrade the American Apollo capsule.

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China’s next launch of its Shenzhou capsule will be manned

China’s next launch of its Shenzhou capsule this summer will be manned.

It seems those rumors weren’t true. Or maybe they were.

Just like in the 1960s with the Soviet Union, the only way to find out what exactly is going on in the Chinese space program is to wait for something to actually happen.

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The decision by China to launch their next Shenzhou manned capsule unnamed has made at least one China space expert worried.

The decision by China to launch their next Shenzhou manned capsule unmanned has made at least one China space expert worried.

Why the sudden change? It seems clear that there must be technical issues at work, and they must be fairly serious. Statements in the Chinese media hint at performing tests on the small tunnel connecting the Shenzhou spacecraft to the Tiangong module after docking. If we decode the typically vague reportage, it seems fair to assume that there could be some sort of technical problem with the pressurization of this tunnel. This problem could have been exposed during the Shenzhou 8 docking.

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China launched second data relay satellite, expanding space communications network before first docking attempt

On Monday China successfully launched its second data relay satellite, expanding its space communications network in preparation for before its first unmanned rendezvous and docking attempt later this year.

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