Posts Tagged ‘China’s Space Station

China’s unmanned Shenzhou 8 capsule returns to Earth

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By Jonathan Amos
A Chinese spacecraft has returned to Earth after completing the nation’s first docking manoeuvres in orbit.

The Shenzhou 8 capsule landed in the Gobi desert late on Thursday (Beijing time), the final moments of its descent having being slowed by parachute.

While in orbit, the unmanned Shenzhou mission had rendezvoused with China’s mini spacelab, Tiangong-1.

The success of the venture paves the way for astronauts to visit the lab next year.

Officials have indicated their desire to launch one, or perhaps two, manned missions in 2012. They have also said that 2012 might even see the country’s first female astronaut.

Ultimately, China hopes the technological progress it is making in orbit will lead to the development of a fully fledged space station at the end of the decade.

Shenzhou 8 spent just under 17 days in orbit in total, the longest Shenzhou mission to date.

Its goal had been to chase down and join with Tiangong-1, to demonstrate the technologies that will be essential if larger structures are to be assembled in space.

Although there were no astronauts – yuhangyuans – on the flight, Shenzhou 8 was carrying biological experiments featuring fish, plants, worms, bacteria and even human cancer cells.

These studies, designed jointly by Chinese and German scientists, were retrieved from the capsule after its return to the grasslands of Siziwang Banner in the north of China at about 19:30 CST (11:30 GMT).

Beijing sees the Tiangong and Shenzhou dockings as the next phase in its step-by-step approach to acquiring the skills of human spaceflight operations.

It is a learning curve China hopes will culminate in the construction of a space station. This could start taking shape before 2020.

At about 60 tonnes in mass, this future station would be considerably smaller than the 400-tonne international platform operated by the US, Russia, Europe, Canada and Japan, but its mere presence in the sky would nonetheless represent a remarkable achievement.

Concept drawings describe a core module weighing some 20-22 tonnes, flanked by two slightly smaller laboratory vessels.

Officials say it would be supplied by freighters in exactly the same way that robotic cargo ships keep the International Space Station (ISS) today stocked with fuel, food, water, air, and spare parts.

  • Tiangong-1 was launched in September on a Long March 2F rocket
  • The unmanned laboratory unit was first put in a 350km-high orbit
  • Shenzhou 8 was sent up to rendezvous and dock with Tiangong-1
  • The project tested key technologies such as life-support systems
  • China aims to start building a 60-tonne space station by about 2020

Written by physicsgg

November 17, 2011 at 4:08 pm

China completes second space docking

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China completed its second space docking on Monday, state media reported, as it moves closer towards fulfilling its ambition to set up a manned space station
The move comes 12 days after the Asian nation successfully completed its first ever “kiss” in space, when the Shenzhou VIII spacecraft joined onto the Tiangong-1 experimental module 343 kilometres (213 miles) above the Earth.
The two unmanned vehicles had been travelling together since the successful maneouvre on November 3, and on Monday, Shenzhou VIII disengaged from Tiangong-1 for half an hour before re-docking with the module, the state Xinhua news agency said.
The Shenzhou vehicle, whose name translates as “divine vessel”, is a modified version of the capsules that took the first Chinese astronauts into space as part of the rising power’s ambitious exploration programme.
China aims to complete construction of a space station by 2020, a goal that requires it to perfect docking technology — a delicate manoeuvre that the Russians and Americans successfully completed in the 1960s.
The technique is hard to master because the two vessels, placed in the same orbit and revolving around the Earth at thousands of kilometres per hour, must come together very gently to avoid destroying each other.
Shenzhou VIII took off on November 1 from the Jiuquan base in the northwestern province of Gansu, from where Tiangong-1 — or “Heavenly Palace” — also launched on September 29.
It is set to return to Earth on Thursday, Wu Ping, spokeswoman for China’s manned space programme, told reporters earlier.
China sees its space programme as a symbol of its global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party’s success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty-stricken nation.
If the current mission is a success, China will launch two more spacecraft next year to dock with Tiangong-1 — the Shenzhou IX and Shenzhou X — at least one of which will be manned.
(c) 2011 AFP

Written by physicsgg

November 14, 2011 at 1:18 pm

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China space station test modules dock in historic rendezvous

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Shenzhou-8 craft reaches Tiangong-1 section that was already in orbit and attaches itself successfully

An animation of the Tiangong-1 module and Shenzhou-8 spacecraft as they dock is shown on a monitor at the mission's Beijing control centre. Photograph: AP/Xinhua

Two unmanned Chinese spacecraft have docked successfully and are orbiting the Earth together in a step towards China having its own manned space station.

The Shenzhou-8 craft that was launched on Tuesday docked with the already orbiting Tiangong-1 module, said Wu Ping, spokeswoman for China’s manned space programme. The assembly had orbited Earth several times, with onboard instruments working normally, she said.

The US and Russia are the only other countries to have mastered space docking. It was “a milestone success and sets a sound foundation for continued missions”, Wu said.

The joint assembly will fly for another 12 days doing tests, then a second docking will be followed by two days’ flight. Shenzhou-8 is scheduled to return to Earth on 17 November.

“Our aim is to try our best to perform multiple tests within one launch so as to maximise our benefits through limited launches,” Wu said.

China launched its own space station programme after being turned away in its repeated attempts to join the 16-nation International Space Station – largely because the United States is wary of the Chinese space programme’s military links.

Experts see no explicit military function for the Chinese space station.

In terms of technology the launch of the Tiangong-1 places China about where the US was in the 1960s during the Gemini programme. But experts say China progresses further than the US did with each launch.

Two more docking missions with Tiangong-1 model are planned next year, one of them manned. China would set up a space lab by 2016, Wu said, and its space station would be launched in three sections between 2020 and 2022.

At about 60 tonnes when completed, the Chinese station will be considerably smaller than the International Space Station, which is expected to continue operating until at least 2028.

Written by physicsgg

November 3, 2011 at 4:54 pm

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Tiangong 1 (天宫一号) launch animation

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Tiangong 1 (English: Heavenly Palace) is a Chinese space laboratory, intended as a test-bed to develop the rendezvous and docking capabilities needed to support a larger, inhabited space station complex. The launch of Tiangong 1, aboard a Long March 2F rocket, is planned for late September 2011. It is part of the Tiangong space station programme, also known as Project 921-2, which aims to place a full-size, semi-permanent crewed space station into orbit by 2020.

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September 29, 2011 at 12:35 pm

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China space station module awaits launch

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Countdown begins to lift-off of Tiangong-1, the first step towards a permanent Chinese base in orbit

China has started the countdown to launch a space station module, the Tiangong-1, that is the first step in establishing a permanent manned presence in orbit above the Earth.
A Long March II 2F rocket is scheduled to take off soon after 1.16pm GMT on Thursday from Jiuquan in Gansu province, carrying the laboratory to an altitude of 220 miles (350km) where it will circle the planet unmanned while its systems are tested.

A crew capsule, Shenzhou 8, is to be launched unmanned in November and carry out docking tests with the Tiangong, which means “heavenly palace”.

Manned missions by Chinese astronauts, known as yuhangyuans, are to begin in 2012, according to Chinese state media.

A backup, Tiangong 2, has been built in case Thursday’s launch goes wrong.

China’s eventual aim is to build a 60-tonne space station within 10 years – it will be about a sixth the mass of the International Space Station.

The Tiangong is believed by international analysts to include docking technology based on Russian designs.

Yang Liwei in 2003 became the first man put in orbit by China’s space programme, circling the Earth 14 times during 21 hours in orbit. Five others have followed him in crews of up to three at a time.

The diving bell-shaped Shenzou is similar to the Russian Soyuz but as a whole the Shenzou is larger and has greater flying capabilities in orbit. –

Written by physicsgg

September 29, 2011 at 8:06 am

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