China’s first cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1 boosts space dream


China’s first cargo spacecraft, Tianzhou-1, was launched successfully at 7:41 pm Beijing Time Thursday, a crucial step for the country to build a space station by approximately 2022.

Lifted by a Long March-7 Y2 carrier rocket, Tianzhou-1 roared into space from Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan Province on Thursday evening.

The cargo ship will dock with the orbiting Tiangong-2 space lab, provide fuel and other supplies, and conduct space experiments before falling back to Earth. The launch of Tianzhou-1 was a “zero-window” mission, which means it had to be launched at precisely 7:41:28 pm, with no room for error, China Central Television reported.

The cargo ship is 10.6 meters long and has a maximum diameter of 3.35 meters. Its maximum takeoff weight is 13.5 tons, allowing it to carry over 6 tons of supplies. Tianzhou-1 is larger and heavier than Tiangong-2, which is 10.4 meters in length and has a maximum diameter of 3.35 meters, weighing 8.6 tons, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

“Tianzhou-1’s cargo usually includes space food, medicine, water and so on, for three people’s use for 30 days, but this time it is a unmanned flight, so we put simulated cargo that weighs the same in the spacecraft,” Huang Weifen, deputy chief designer of China’s manned space project astronaut system, told the Global Times.

The biggest challenge of this mission is that new spacecraft, new rockets and the new launch site need to match each other, Xu said. When Tianzhou-1 completes its mission, it will make an automatic destructive re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere.

“This shows that China’s environmental awareness of space has improved, and this is a good attempt to reduce space junk. Tianzhou-1 will fall into the South Pacific under our control when its mission ends,” Xu said.


Advanced technology

Bai Mingsheng, chief designer of the cargo ship, told Xinhua that the cargo aboard the spacecraft weighs almost the same as the ship, exceeding the load capacity of Russian cargo ships in active service. If the Tianzhou-1 mission is successful, China will become the third country besides Russia and the US to master the technique of refueling in space.

“In general, Tianzhou-1’s technology is definitely in the first-class around the globe, at the same stage as Russia and the US. Although Europe and Japan also have their own cargo spacecraft and their payload capacity is bigger than Tianzhou-1, they heavily rely on US and Russian technological support in various aspects,” Song Zhongping, a military expert who served in the Second Artillery Corps (now known as the PLA Rocket Force), told the Global Times on Thursday.

From launch to automatic destruction, China’s Tianzhou-1 doesn’t need to rely on any other country’s facilities or technology, and compared to the US’ Cygnus and Dragon, its payload capacity is bigger and technologically more reliable and advanced in general, Song said.

Space ambition

China aims to build a permanent space station that is expected to orbit for at least 10 years, and the maiden voyage of the cargo ship is important as it will be a courier to help maintain the space station. Without a cargo transportation system, the station would run out of power and basic necessities, causing it to fall back to Earth before the designated time, Xinhua reported.

Currently, the only space station is the International Space Station (ISS), which was mainly pushed by the US and Russia and was launched in 1998. It should reach the end of its mission in 2020, but the US and Russia might decide to extend its lifetime a little bit, Song said.

According to previous reports in the Global Times, in order to prevent China from sharing in advanced space technology, the US always refused any attempt from China to join the ISS program, despite efforts China made in 2000.

“But we are going to have our own space station very soon. After 2020, China’s Tiangong will very likely become the only space station in service, and will provide services to more developing countries so more countries can benefit from humanity’s achievements in space technology,” Song said.

Source: By Liu Yang in Wenchang and Yang Sheng in Beijing Source:Global Times Published: 2017/4/21 0:08:39

First cargo spacecraft boosts China’s space dream

WENCHANG, Hainan, April 20 (Xinhua) — China has taken another step toward its goal of putting a space station into orbit around 2022, by sending its first cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1 into space on Thursday evening.

Atop a Long March-7 Y2 carrier rocket, Tianzhou-1 rose into the air from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in south China’s Hainan Province at 7:41 p.m.

China declared the launch a success after it entered designated orbit minutes later.

The cargo ship will dock with the orbiting Tiangong-2 space lab where two Chinese astronauts spent 30 days in the country’s longest-ever manned space mission, provide fuel and other supplies to the latter, as well as conduct space experiments before falling back to Earth.

If the Tianzhou-1 mission is successful, China will become the third country besides Russia and the United States to master the technique of refueling in space.

China aims to build a permanent space station that is expected to orbit for at least 10 years, and the debut of the cargo ship is important as it acts as a courier to help maintain the space station.

Without a cargo transportation system, the station would run out of power and basic necessities, causing it to return to Earth before the designated time.

“The Tianzhou-1 mission includes the breakthrough of in-orbit refueling and other key technology needed to build a space station, laying a foundation for future space station operations,” said Bai Mingsheng, chief designer of the cargo ship.

THREE DOCKINGS

Measuring 10.6 meters long and boasting a maximum diameter of 3.35 meters, the Tianzhou-1 cargo ship has a maximum takeoff weight of 13.5 tonnes, and could carry over 6 tonnes of supplies.

Tianzhou-1 is larger and heavier than Tiangong-2, which is 10.4 meters in length and has a maximum diameter of 3.35 meters, weighing 8.6 tonnes.

Bai said that supplies loaded on the cargo spacecraft are nearly as heavy as the ship’s own weight, exceeding the loading capacity of Russian cargo ships in active service.

Tianzhou-1 will dock with Tiangong-2 three times, said Bai. After the first docking, aerospace engineers will test the controlling ability of the cargo spacecraft over the two spacecraft.

The second docking will be conducted from a different direction, which aims to test the ability of the cargo ship to dock with the space station from different directions.

In the last docking, Tianzhou-1 will use fast-docking technology. Previously, it took China about two days to dock, while fast docking will take about six hours, according to Bai.

Refueling is conducted during docking, a process that is much more complicated than refueling vehicles on land.

The refueling procedure will take 29 steps and last for several days each time.

This means the Tianzhou-1 will stay in space for about six months. It will fall into a designated sea area after fulfilling its tasks.

SUPPORTING SPACE STATION

Space cargo ships play a crucial role in the maintenance of a space station.

Cargo ships can send all kinds of supplies to the space station which can be an experiment field for developing technology in space.

Huang Weifen, a deputy chief designer of the Astronaut Center of China, said that supplies carried by Tianzhou-1 include goods that will meet the basic living and working needs of three astronauts for 30 days in space, including drinking water, oxygen bottles and nitrogen bottles.

Also onboard include facilities for microorganism tests, and sensors are installed to obtain data such as mechanics and temperature for the future design of the space suit outside a spacecraft.

“We hope to gather relevant data through this mission and accumulate experience for sending material for the future space station,” she said.

VISION OF SPACE POWER

Although China has achieved many giant steps in space exploration, the country’s space odyssey is far from over as it eyes building its own space station and far beyond that: landing on Mars.

In 1992, the central authority approved a three-step manned space program.

The first step, to send an astronaut into space and return safely, was fulfilled by Yang Liwei in Shenzhou-5 mission in 2013.

The second step was developing advanced space flight techniques and technologies including extra-vehicular activity and orbital docking.

The final step will be able to operate a permanent manned space station.

Chinese scientists said they plan to launch a core module of the country’s first space station around 2018, followed by two experiment modules.

The station in the primary stage will be composed of three modules: core module, experiment module I and experiment module II. Each module will weigh more than 20 tonnes and together the three will be structured in the shape of T. The core module will be in the middle with an experiment module on each side.

During its operation, the space station could be linked to one additional cargo ship and two manned spacecraft at one time, and the maximum weight of the whole assembly could reach up to 90 tonnes.

Based on such design, scientists will keep updating capsules in accordance with scientific research and extend their abilities.

With the International Space Station set to retire in 2024, the Chinese space station will offer a promising alternative, and China will be the only country with a permanent space station.

So far, China has successfully launched 11 Shenzhou series spacecraft, including six manned spacecraft that lifted 11 astronauts into space.

The country strives to realize the third step of its lunar program in 2017: sending Chang’e-5 lunar probe onto the moon which will return with samples.

Source: Xinhua| 2017-04-20 21:17:45|Editor: Mu Xuequan

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Graphics shows launch procedure of China’s first cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-1

Graphics shows the launch procedure of China’s first cargo  spacecraft Tianzhou-1 on April 20, 2017. (Xinhua/Ma Yan)

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World’s first Quantum communication satellite to be launched in China against hackers


China is poised to become the first country to send encoded information from space that cannot be hacked. Scientists are making final adjustments to China’s first quantum communication satellite. The project chief describes it as a revolution in communications.

China will launch its first experimental quantum communication satellite in July, according to the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

 

China is poised to become the first country to send encoded information from space that cannot be hacked. Scientists are making final adjustments to China’s first quantum communication satellite. The project chief describes it as a revolution in communications.

A quantum photon cannot be separated or duplicated, which means if someone tried to decode information, the encryption would change, and the receiver would know that his letter was opened by someone.

Scientists hope the new technology will protect China from future cyber issues. In 2015, cases involving information technology in China rose by more than 120 percent, according to survey by a non-profit cybersecurity institution. China plans to use its quantum satellite system to cover the planet by 2030.

On the ground, China is also building its own quantum information sharing network for use in national defense and security. At some point, China plans to connect the ground network to the quantum satellite system.

It has taken five years for Chinese scientists to develop and manufacture the first quantum satellite. In June, it will be transported to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in southwest China for final preparation and launch in July., 2016

China wins space race to launch world’s first ‘quantum communication’ satellite in fight against hackers

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China space station will be completed by 2020, the super “eye” to speed up space rendezvous


 

http://t.cn/RGWRDib

China announces its second space laboratory, the ‘TIANGONG 2,’ will blast off into orbit later this autumn, but that’s not it! Shortly afterwards, a manned spacecraft will also be sent to dock with the lab with two astronauts set to stay longer in space than any of their predecessors.

China is pressing ahead its ultimate space goal. Tiangong-2, or “Heavenly Palace-2,” will be the country’s second space lab to be deployed above earth.

“Tiangong-2 will launch in the third quarter of this year. It will carry out various space scientific and application experiments,” said Wu Ping, Deputy Director of China Manned Space Program Office.

If the launch is successful, the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft will follow shortly carrying 2 astronauts, who’ll spend 30 days in orbit- a new record for China.

China aims to build own space station by 2020

But that’s only part of the bigger picture. China’s greater goal is to build its very own space station by 20-20 and it looks to be on course, to do just this.

“It takes numerous launches and docks to finish the ultimate goal. We will organize a series of missions from the middle of this year to the first half of next year,” said Wu.

Tiangong-2 is a prototype for a space station. Its predecessor Tiangong-1 has been in orbit for nearly five years. In 2012 and 2013, manned spacecraft successfully docked with the space lab.

“The difference is Tiangong-2 is a space station in a real sense. Technical adjustments have been made based on experience and data from Tiangong One- which will continue scientific missions,” said Wu.

Preparations are also underway for China’s FIRST cargo spaceship, which is set to launch next year and dock with Tiangong 2.

Wu also said:”It will test key technologies in the construction and operation of a space station, such as cargo transportation, and propellant supply in orbit.”

The international space station is scheduled to retire by 2020, when China is on course to become the only country with a permanent presence in space.

World’s most sensitive ‘eye’
– Chinese experts develop best rendezvous and docking CCD Sensor

 

BEIJING, June 22 2015 (Xinhua) — Chinese space experts have developed the world’s most sensitive “eye” that enables the autonomous rendezvous and docking of two spacecraft — flying eight times faster than bullets — more efficiently and safely.

The “eye” is China’s newly developed third-generation rendezvous and docking CCD optical imaging sensor. It will be used on China’s second orbiting space lab, Tiangong-2, the Chang’e-5 lunar probe and the permanent manned space station, according to China Academy of Space Technology (CAST).

China plans to launch Tiangong-2 in 2016, and send Chang’e-5 to collect samples from the moon and return to earth around 2017. It also aims to put a permanent manned space station into service around 2022.

“Good ‘eyesight’ is crucial for one spacecraft chasing another for hundreds of thousands of kilometers to achieve a perfect rendezvous and docking — it’s like threading the needle,” says Gong Dezhu, a CAST designer who worked on the CCD optical imaging sensor.

“The last 150 meters between the two spacecraft is the most critical moment. A slight deviation during docking might lead to a disaster like the one caused by Mann, the main antagonist in the movie Interstellar,” Gong says.

Compared with the CCD optical imaging sensor used in the docking of Tiangong-1 and the Shenzhou spacecraft, the new “eye” can see clearer under direct sunlight, which will greatly improve safety. The window period of the docking process will be twice the length, Gong says.

“And the reaction time between the ‘eye’ capturing the first sight of its target and recognizing it has been shortened from 10 seconds to less than one second,” Gong says.

The sensor’s weight and power consumption is only half that of comparable products internationally, says Gong.
Such “eyes” can also be used on mechanical arms, and for refueling and repairing of spacecraft, as well as aerial refueling and docking of underwater vehicles, experts say. – Xinhua

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China to launch 3 astronauts in new manned space flight docking


 • China will launch its Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft sometime in mid-June.
 • Shenzhou-9 and its carrier rocket, the Long March-2F, had been moved to the launch platform.
 • In the next few days, scientists will conduct functional tests on the spacecraft and the rocket.

The Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft, the Long March-2F rocket, and the escape tower are vertically transferred to the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gansu Province, June 9, 2012. China will launch its Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft sometime in mid-June to perform the country’s first manned space docking mission with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module, a spokesperson with the country’s manned space program said here Saturday. (Xinhua/Wang Jianmin)

Click to see more photos

JIUQUAN, Gansu, June 9 (Xinhua) — China will launch its Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft sometime in mid-June to perform the country’s first manned space docking mission with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module, a spokesperson said here Saturday.

By 10:30 a.m. Saturday, the spacecraft and its carrier rocket, the Long March-2F, had been moved to the launch platform at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, a spokesperson with the country’s manned space program said.

In the next few days, scientists will conduct functional tests on the spacecraft and the rocket, as well as joint tests on selected astronauts, spacecraft, rocket and ground systems, according to the spokesperson.

The Shenzhou-9 will be launched into space to perform China’s first manned space docking mission with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module.

The manned spacecraft Shenzhou-9 and its carrier rocket were delivered to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in early April this year.

The Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace-1, was lowered to docking orbit in early June and is orbiting normally, the spokesperson said.

The final preparations are running smoothly, and the selected astronauts have completed their training and are in sound physical and mental conditions, according to the spokesperson.

Niu Hongguang, deputy commander-in-chief of the country’s manned space program, said earlier that the three-person crew on Shenzhou-9 might include female astronauts, but the final selection would be decided “on the very last condition.”

The space docking mission will be manually conducted by astronauts, giving China another chance to test its docking technology, the program’s spokesperson said previously.

One of the three Shenzhou-9 crew members will not board the Tiangong-1 space module lab, but will remain inside the spacecraft as a precautionary measure in case of emergency, the spokesperson said.

The target module Tiangong-1, which blasted off on Sept. 29, 2011, went into long-term operation in space awaiting docking attempts of Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 after completing China’s first space docking mission with the unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft in early November.

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Shenzhou-9 spacecraft delivered to launch center

BEIJING, April 9 (Xinhua) — The manned spacecraft Shenzhou-9 was delivered to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on Monday, a spokesman with the country’s manned space program said.  Full story

Shenzhou-9 may take female astronaut to space: official

BEIJING, March 12 (Xinhua) — Authorities have completed the initial selection of crew members for China’s first manned space docking mission, and the roster includes female astronauts, an official with the country’s manned space program has said.  Full story

China to carry out manned space flight

China's Long March 2F rocket carrying the Tiangong-1 module blasts off from the Jiuquan launch centre on September 29 2011 The manned space flight will dock with the Tiangong 1 space station module, pictured here being launched

China has announced it will carry out a manned space flight at some point in the middle of June.

A rocket carrying the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft has been moved to a launch pad in the north-west of the country.

According to state news agency Xinhua, it will carry three astronauts – possibly including a woman – to the Taingong 1 space station module.

This will be China’s fourth manned space flight and its first since 2008.

It became only the third country to independently send a man into space in 2003.

Stellar plans

Last year, China completed a complicated space docking manoeuvre when an unmanned craft docked with the Taingong 1, or “Heavenly Body”, by remote control.

The astronauts onboard the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft will also dock with the Taingong 1 – an experimental module currently orbiting Earth – and carry out scientific experiments on board.

Xinhua reported that Niu Hongguang, deputy commander-in-chief of China’s manned space programme, said the crew “might include female astronauts”.

The mission is part of China’s programme to develop a full orbiting space station.

Beijing is planning to complete the 60-tonne manned space station by 2020.

China was previously turned away from the International Space Station, a much bigger project run by 16 nations, reportedly after objections from the United States.- BBC

China to Launch 3 Astronauts to Space Lab This Month

by Tariq Malik, SPACE.com Managing Editor
China Long March 2F rocket rolls out to launch pad for Shenzhou 9 mission in June 2012.
A Long March 2F rocket carrying the Shenzhou 9 rocket rolls out to the launch pad at China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center ahead of a planned June 2012 launch of the country’s first manned space docking mission.
CREDIT: China Manned Space Engineering Office

China will launch its first manned mission to an orbiting space laboratory in mid-June, according to state media reports and the country’s human spaceflight agency.

A Long March 2F rocket will launch three astronauts aboard a Shenzhou 9 capsule for China’s first manned space docking at the mini-space station Tiangong-1. The space lab module has been circling Earth unmanned since its launch last year.

“The Shenzhou 9 will perform our country’s first manned space docking mission with the orbiting Tiangong 1 space lab module,” the Xinhua news agency quoted Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China’s manned space program, as saying today (June 9).

Zhou’s comments came as he accompanied the rocket set to launch the Shenzhou 9 mission to a pad at China’s Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the country’s northwest region.

The mission, Zhou told Xinhua, will be a major milestone for China’s space exploration program.

“It means China’s spacecraft will become a genuine manned shuttle tool between space and Earth. It can send human beings to space stations or space labs,” Zhou told Xinhua. “This will be a significant step in China’s manned space flight history.”  [Gallery: Tiangong 1, China’s First Space Lab]

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1
http://www.space.com/13658-china-space-station-rendezvous-capsule-landing-animated.html

Video:
The unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft landed on November 17 in China, marking its successful separation and return to Earth from the Tiangong-1 space station. This animated look shows the dock, separation and landing.
http://www.space.com/13658-china-space-station-rendezvous-capsule-landing-animated.html

China’s Shenzhou 9 mission will mark the fourth human spaceflight for the country, which has been making steady advances since the launch of Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei in 2003 on Shenzhou 5, the country’s first human spaceflight. China is the third country to achieve human spaceflight after Russia and the United States.

Since its first flight, China has launched two more manned missions, the two-man Shenzhou 6 flight and three-person Shenzhou 7 mission. Last September, China launched the Tiangong 1 module — a prototype for a future space station — into orbit. That launch was followed in November by the unmanned Shenzhou 8 mission, which successfully docked a capsule with the space laboratory twice during the test flight.

The Shenzhou 9 mission will mark China’s first human spaceflight to an orbiting module. Earlier this year, space program officials said the mission could also mark the first launch of China’s first female astronaut, but a final decision on that is pending, Xinhua reported.

China Long March 2F rocket rolls out to launch pad for Shenzhou 9 mission in June 2012.
This image released by the China Manned Space Engineering Office shows the Long March 2F rocket carrying the Shenzhou 9 capsule that will launch three astronauts to the Tiangong 1 space lab in June 2012.
CREDIT: China Manned Space Engineering Office

A translation of an announcement released online by the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSE), which oversees China’s human spaceflight program, stated that preparations of both the rocket and Shenzhou 9 astronaut crew are going smoothly.

A series of spacecraft and rocket tests, as well as final mission training, are underway ahead of the planned spaceflight, CMSE officials said.

China’s Shenzhou (or “Divine Vessel”) spacecraft are three-module space capsules with a design originally based on Russia’s Soyuz space capsules, but the Chinese vehicles carry substantial modifications.

Like the Soyuz, Shenzhou vehicles carry up to three astronauts and consist of a propulsion module, a crew capsule and an orbital module. But unlike Russia’s Soyuz, the orbital module of Shenzhou spacecraft carries its own solar arrays and can remain in space after its crew returns to Earth in the crew capsule.

China’s Tiangong 1 (“Heavenly Palace 1”) space laboratory module, meanwhile, is a prototype space station designed to test the technologies required for a much larger space station complex currently under development. The Tiangong 1 module is 34 feet long (10.4 meters), 11 feet wide (3.35 m) and weighed about 8.5 metric tons.

Chinese space officials have said the country is developing a larger, 60-ton space station that will consist of several modules. That space station is slated to be launched in 2020.

China is currently following a three-step space exploration program that ultimately aims to land an astronaut on the moon. According to a white paper released by the Chinese government in December, the country plans to launch a series of robotic moon landers and a lunar sample-return mission by 2016.

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China’s Next Step in Space: Critical Docking Demo in November



by Denise Chow, SPACE.com Staff Writer

A Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft closes in on the country's Tiangong 1 space lab in this still from a mission profile video.A Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft closes in on the country’s Tiangong 1 space lab in this still from a mission profile video.
CREDIT: China Manned Space Engineering Office

The successful launch of China’s first space laboratory module this week sets the stage for the future of the country’s ambitious space program. But now that the spacecraft is in orbit, a major docking test looms ahead for China.

The unmanned Tiangong 1 prototype module launched Thursday (Sept. 29) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China. Shortly after liftoff, officials at the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center, the Mission Control for China’s human spaceflight program, confirmed that the cylindrical module had effectively unfurled its solar arrays.

Chang Wanquan, chief commander of the China Manned Space Engineering office, declared the launch a complete success shortly after liftoff. China’s president Hu Jintao and other state officials attended the launch, according to state media and TV broadcasts. [Gallery: Tiangong 1, China’s First Space Laboratory]

Full Video: China´s first space lab module enters space CCTV News – CNTV English.

China’s first destination in space

Tiangong 1, which means “Heavenly Palace 1” in Chinese, will now settle into an orbit 217 miles (350 kilometers) above Earth, and mission controllers will perform a series of systems tests.

The launch of Tiangong 1 is an important part of China’s stepping stone strategy to human spaceflight. The space lab module will test crucial docking technology that will be required to meet the nation’s goal of constructing a 60-ton space station in orbit by 2020. [Video: China’s First Space Lab Module Lift-Off]
Chinese taikonauts NIE Haisheng and FEI Junlon...Image via Wikipedia

“The implementation of space rendezvous and docking mission, as well as the breakthrough and mastering of rendezvous and docking technology are the basis and premise for the construction of manned space station,” China’s Manned Space Engineering office spokeswoman Wu Ping told reporters before Tiangong 1 launched, according to a translation provided by the office. “It is of great significance for the realization of the three-step strategy of [the] China Manned Space Engineering Project, and the promotion of sustainable development of manned space flight.”

China’s three-step space exploration plan, according to past statements by Chinese space officials, is aimed at first perfecting its human spaceflight transporation system (the Shenzhou spacecraft), then building a space station and moving on to a manned moon landing.

This still from a China space agency video shows a cutaway of a Shenzhou spacecraft docked at the country's Tiangong 1 space lab.This still from a China space agency video shows a cutaway of a Shenzhou spacecraft docked at the country’s Tiangong 1 space lab, showing how astronauts will move between the two Chinese spacecraft.
CREDIT: China Manned Space Engineering Office

Critical docking tests ahead

With its first space destination sailing above Earth, China is now planning a series of orbital docking demonstration flights over the next two years.

The country plans to launch three separate spacecraft — Shenzhou 8, Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10 — to robotically connect to Tiangong 1, which will mark the nation’s first docking maneuvers in space. [Infographic: How China’s First Space Station Will Work]

According to state media reports, the unmanned Shenzhou 8 spacecraft could be launched in early November, and the mission is expected to last at least 12 days. At least two docking demonstrations will be performed.

If the Shenzhou 8 mission is successful, Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10 are expected to follow in 2012. The Shenzhou 10 flight may also carry the first astronauts to the Tiangong 1 module, a crew that could also include China’s first female astronaut, according to state media reports.

China is only the third nation, after the United States and Russia, to independently launch humans into orbit. China’s first manned mission, Shenzhou 5, was piloted by Yang Liwei on Oct. 15, 2003. Two more manned missions followed, in 2005 and 2008.

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China’s Tiangong-1 completes orbit maneuver & the future missions


Tiangong-1 completes orbit maneuver CCTV News – CNTV English.

09-30-2011 08:40 BJT Special Report: Tiangong I – China’s first space rendezvous and docking task

Full Video: China´s first space lab module enters space CCTV News – CNTV English.

BEIJING, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) — China’s first space lab module Tiangong-1, or Heavenly Palace-1, blasted off at 9:16 p.m. Beijing Time (1316 GMT) Thursday in a northwest desert area as the nation envisions the coming of its space station era in about ten years.

The unmanned module, carried by the Long March-2FT1 rocket, will test space docking with a spacecraft later this year, paving the way for China to operate a permanent space station around 2020 and making it the world’s third country to do so.

A Long March-2FT1 carrier rocket loaded with Tiangong-1 unmanned space lab module blasts off from the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gansu Province, Sept. 29, 2011. (Xinhua/Wang Jianmin)

More than ten minutes after the blastoff, Commander-in-chief of China’s manned space program Chang Wanquan announced the launch’s success at the control center in Beijing.

The success of the launch, however, is just a beginning, and the real challenge is space docking, said Yang Hong, chief designer of Tiangong module series.

DOCKING TESTS

Unlike previous Chinese space vehicles, the Tiangong-1 has a docking facility which allows it to be connected to multiple space modules in order to assemble an experimental station in low Earth orbit.

The Tiangong-1 will orbit the Earth for about one month, awaiting the arrival of the Shenzhou-8 unmanned spacecraft. Once the two vehicles successfully rendezvous, they will conduct the first space docking at a height of 340 kilometers above the earth’s surface.

The Tiangong-1 flies at a speed of 7.8 kilometers per second in orbit, which leaves ground-based staff an error of less than 0.12 meter to control the two vehicles to dock in low gravity. China has never tried such test and could not simulate it on the ground.

After two docking tests with the Shenzhou-8, the Tiangong-1 will await Shenzhou-9, to be followed by Shenzhou-10, which will possibly carry a female astronaut, in the next two years, according to the plan for China’s manned space program.

If the astronaut in the Shenzhou-10 mission succeeds with the manual space docking, China will become the third nation after the United States and Russia to master the technology.

President Hu Jintao watched the launch from the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center on Thursday, two days before China’s National Day, witnessing the latest endeavor of China’s manned space program since 1992.

Hu told the engineers, commanders and other workers at the control center to do every job in a “more aborative and meticulous” manner to ensure the success of the country’s first space docking mission.

Other members of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China (CPC) Central Committee, including Wu Bangguo, Jia Qinglin, Li Changchun, Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang and Zhou Yongkang, were also present.

Premier Wen Jiabao went to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center to watch the launch process with He Guoqiang, member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee.

Chinese people were inspired by the successful launch.

“The Tiangong-1 has gone into the dark sky! We Chinese are on the way to inhabiting the vast universe,” wrote Qichaoxiguanghai on Sina Weibo, China’s most popular microblog service provider.

“I heard the news of the Tiangong-1’s launch from the radio on a ship to Yangzhou,” wrote microblogger Xingfufeiafei. “I am proud to share the pride that shakes the world. The pride of our nation is once again deep in my heart.”

THREE PHASES

With a room of 15 cubic meters for two to three astronauts to conduct research and experiments in the future, China’s first space lab module is hardly the size of any palace.

But its name Tiangong-1, or “Heavenly Palace-1,” speaks of a dream home from Chinese folklore, long envisioned as a secret place where deities reside.

Thanks to an economic boom that has continued since the end of the 1970s, the Chinese government approved and began carrying out its three-phase manned space program in January 1992.

The first phase, to send the first astronaut to space and return safely, was fulfilled by Yang Liwei in the Shenzhou-5 mission in 2003. After another two astronauts made successful extravehicular activities in the Shenzhou-7 mission in 2008, China entered the second phase of its space program: space docking.

If the previous two steps succeed, China plans to develop and launch multiple space modules, with a goal of assembling a 60-tonne manned space station around 2020 in which Chinese astronauts will start more research projects in space.

Premier Wen said at the launch center that the breakthrough in and command of space docking technology marks a significant step forward in China’s “three-phase” manned space program.

He encouraged all the participants in the program to do a good job to “win the vital battle of space docking.”

The success of Thursday’s launch of the Tiangong-1 also eased the pressure on China’s space engineers following an unsuccessful lift-off in August when a Long March-2C rocket malfunctioned and failed to send an experimental satellite into orbit.

To acquire a new and bigger rocket capable of loading a future space station’s components that will be much heavier than the Tiangong-1, research and development on a carrier rocket that burns more environmentally-friendly liquid-oxygen-kerosene fuels is in progress.

The Long March-5 and -7 carrier rockets with a payload to low Earth orbit of more than 20 tonnes will take test flight as early as 2014, said Song Zhengyu, deputy chief designer of rocket for China’s manned space program.

China’s progress in space technology is stunning. The Tiangong-1 will dock three spacecraft one after another, which will cost less time and money than docking experiments the U.S. and Russia did.

The space station now still functional is the International Space Station (ISS) initiated by the United States and Russia, which cooperate with other 14 nations at about 360 kilometers above the earth.

However, as the U.S. ended its space shuttle program after the Atlantis’ last mission in July, the ISS is scheduled to be plunged into the ocean at the end of its life cycle around 2020, when China is expected to start its era of space station.

INTERNATIONAL COOPERATION PLATFORM

Zhang Shancong, deputy chief designer of the Tiangong-1, told Xinhua that the module carries special cameras which will take hyperspectral images of China’s vast farmlands to detect heavy metal pollution and pesticide residue as well as plant disease.

Moreover, scientists on the ground will also conduct experiments on photonic crystal, a new material expected to revolutionize information technology, in the low-gravity environment inside the Tiangong-1 as these experiments would be extremely difficult to conduct on the earth’s surface.

“China is clearly becoming a global power and its investments in areas like technology and exploration reflect this,” said Peter Singer, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution.

“It is a natural result of the growth in political and economic power and is to be expected,” Singer said in an interview with Xinhua conducted via email.

“What remains at question is what kind of presence China will play on the international stage, cooperative, working with international partners, or going it alone?” Singer said.

The scholar, however, can find an answer to his question from the words of Zhou Jianping, chief designer of China’s manned space program.

Zhou told Xinhua that China will turn its future space station into an international platform for space research and application to share space achievements with partners.

“The Chinese nation has pursued peace since ancient times,” Zhou said. “China’s ultimate intention with the space program is to explore space resources and make use of them for mankind’s well-being.”

According to Wu Ping, a spokesperson with China’s manned space program, scientists from China and Germany will jointly carry out experiments on space life science at the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft.

A U.S. astronaut on the Atlantis’s final mission has said China’s first experimental space station will be a welcome addition to the international brotherhood.

“China being in space I think is a great thing. The more nations that get into space, the better cooperation we’ll have with each,” astronaut Rex Walheim said during an interview with Reuters.

So far China’s Long March rocket series has successfully sent more than 20 satellites into space for the United States, Australia, Pakistan and other countries and regions.

One Chinese scientist and five international peers have also participated in Russia’s Mars-500 Program, a ground-based experiment simulating a manned expedition to Mars.

Future missions await Tiangong-1

Future missions await Tiangong-1 CCTV News – CNTV English.

JIUQUAN, Sept. 29 (Xinhua) — China is working on the development of a new generation of carrier rockets featuring a larger thrust to cater to the demand of building a space station, a chief rocket engineer said Thursday.

“The building of a space station requires carrier rockets with greater thrust as each capsule of the station will weigh about 20 tonnes,” said Jing Muchun, chief engineer for the carrier rocket system of China’s manned space program.

“We have been preparing for the launch of the space station slated for 2020,” Jing told Xinhua.

The Tiangong-1, China’s first space lab module, was launched into space by the Long March-2FT1 carrier rocket on Thursday evening, paving the way for a future space station.

A Long March-2FT1 carrier rocket loaded with Tiangong-1 unmanned space lab module blasts off from the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China’s Gansu Province, Sept. 29, 2011. (Xinhua/Wang Jianmin)

Jing’s deputy, Song Zhengyu, said the new generation of carrier rockets, represented by the digital and poison- and pollution-free Long March-5 and Long March-7, are expected to make their first lift-offs around 2014.

Song said the technologies applied to the new generation of carrier rockets will mature by 2021 and the existing Long March-2, -3 and -4 series will be replaced sequentially.

China started developing modern carrier rockets in 1956, and the Long March rocket series has become the mainstream carriers for launching China’s satellites.

The Long March rockets currently fall into four categories, namely Long March-1, -2, -3 and -4.

Related stories/post

China Successfully Launches 1st Space Lab Module Into Orbit for Docking Tests

China Successfully Launches 1st Space Lab Module Into Orbit for Docking Tests


China Launches 1st Space Lab Module Into Orbit for Docking Tests

by Denise Chow, SPACE.com Staff Writer
China launched the Tiangong-1 space lab module on a Long March 2F rocket.
China launches the Tiangong-1 space lab module Sept. 29, 2011 atop a Chinese Long March 2F rocket from the Gobi desert.
CREDIT: CCTV View full size image

China successfully launched its first space lab module into orbit in an impressive nighttime display today (Sept. 29).

Full Video: China´s first space lab module enters space CCTV News – CNTV English.

The unmanned Tiangong 1 module lifted off on a Chinese Long March 2F rocket at 9:16 p.m. Local Time (1316 GMT/9:16 a.m. EDT) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China. The spacecraft launched just days before China’s National Day holiday, which occurs Saturday (Oct. 1).

China launched the Tiangong-1 space lab module Sept. 29, 2011.“It’s absolutely an accomplishment,” said Victoria Samson of the Secure World Foundation, an organization dedicated to the peaceful use of outer space. However, Samson, director of the foundation’s Washington office, added that the launch of Tiangong 1 represents an achievement that other countries, including the United States, managed decades ago. [Photos: China Launches First Space Lab, Tiangong 1]

“They’re doing their version of Spacelab, but that’s something we did back in the ’70s,” she said.

The Tiangong 1 module, which is expected to remain in orbit for two years, is considered an important steppingstone in the country’s effort to construct its own crewed space station. The prototype space lab measures 34 feet (10.4 meters) long and 11 feet (3.35 meters) wide and weighed about 8.5 metric tons on Earth.

This artist's illustration from a China space agency video shows the Tiangong 1 space laboratory, a prototype module for the country's planned space station.
This artist’s illustration from a China space agency video shows the Tiangong 1 space laboratory, a prototype module for the country’s planned space station.
CREDIT: China Manned Space Engineering Office

“The main tasks of [the] Tiangong 1 spaceflight include: to provide a target vehicle for space rendezvous and docking experiment; to primarily establish a manned space test platform capable of long-term unmanned operation in space with temporary human attendance, and thus accumulate experiences for the development of the space station; to carry out space science experiments, space medical experiments and space technology experiments,” China’s Manned Space Engineering office spokeswoman Wu Ping told reporters yesterday (Sept. 28) at the launch site, according to a translation provided by the office. [Gallery: Tiangong 1, China’s First Space Laboratory]

Tiangong 1, which translates to “Heavenly Palace,” will test docking technology in conjunction with three spacecraft — Shenzhou 8, Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10 — that will be launched at a later date, according to state media reports. These planned robotic maneuvers will be China’s first dockings in orbit.

The Shenzhou 8 spacecraft will launch in early November, with Shenzhou 9 to follow in 2012. Both flights will be unmanned docking trials. The Shenzhou 10 mission, also in 2012, may carry a crew to Tiangong 1, a team that could also include China’s first female astronaut, Chinese space officials said.

A Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft closes in on the country's Tiangong 1 space lab in this still from a mission profile video.A Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft closes in on the country’s Tiangong 1 space lab in this still from a mission profile video.
CREDIT: China Manned Space Engineering Office

Tiangong 1 is also carrying medical and engineering experiments into space, according to state media. It is packed with 300 flags from the International Astronautical Federation, to commemorate the mission.

While Chinese space officials have indicated that the launch of Shenzhou 8 could occur in early November, but it’s possible the unmanned mission could lift off sooner, said Dean Cheng, a research fellow on Chinese political and security affairs at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative public policy think tank.

“The Chinese have put up launches within days of each other,” Cheng told SPACE.com. “But we don’t have a good indication as to exactly when it will go up.”

The launch of Tiangong 1 is considered a milestone for China and its burgeoning space program. It is particularly important for China’s space program after last month’s failure of a Long March 2C rocket, which malfunctioned shortly after liftoff and did not reach orbit. [Related: US & China: Space Race or Cosmic Cooperation?]

“It’s probably going to be a big deal in China, with lots of news coverage,” Cheng said. “You’d probably have to make an effort to avoid it. Once this is launched, you are going to have just a huge amount of hoopla from the state-run media to remind the people of what is going on.”

An investigation into the Long March 2C malfunction delayed plans to launch Tiangong 1. Today’s successful launch using a similar booster, the Long March 2F, marks an important step toward fulfilling the country’s goal of building a 60-ton manned space station by the year 2020. [Infographic: How China’s First Space Station Will Work]

China is only the third nation, after the United States and Russia, to independently launch humans into orbit. China’s first manned mission, Shenzhou 5, was piloted by Yang Liwei on Oct. 15, 2003. Two more manned missions followed, in 2005 and 2008.

You can follow SPACE.com staff writer Denise Chow on Twitter @denisechow. SPACE.com senior writer Clara Moskowitz (@ClaraMoskowitz) contributed to this report. Follow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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China’s Tiangong 1 Space Lab: Questions & Answers

by Tariq Malik, SPACE.com Managing Editor
This artist's illustration from a China space agency video shows the Tiangong 1 space laboratory, a prototype module for the country's planned space station.
This artist’s illustration from a China space agency video shows the Tiangong 1 space laboratory, a prototype module for the country’s planned space station.
CREDIT: China Manned Space Engineering Office

China is launching its first space laboratory module Tiangong 1 today (Sept. 29) on a critical test flight to demonstrate the vital docking technology required for a future space station.

The Tiangong 1 space lab will serve as a space station module prototype for China, which is the third country (after Russia and the United States) to develop the capability to launch astronauts into space and return them safely to Earth.

Here are some basic questions and answers about China’s first space laboratory:

What is China’s Tiangong 1?

The Tiangong 1 module is China’s first spacecraft designed for orbital docking tests and space research. It’s name translates to “Heavenly Palace” in English. The module is a prototype for a planned space station, which China plans to build in orbit as part of its human spaceflight program. China’s plan currently is to build a 60-ton space station by 2020. [Gallery: Tiangong 1, China’s First Space Laboratory]

Why is the Tiangong 1 mission important for China?

China has been taking a stepping stone approach to human spaceflight that began with the 2003 launch of Yang Liwei, China’s first astronaut. In 2005, China launched its second human spaceflight, a two-person mission, in 2005. A three-person flight followed in 2008, a mission that included China’s first spacewalk.

The Tiangong 1 mission will mark China’s first attempt to dock two spacecraft together, a vital skill that will be needed to build a large space station in orbit.

This image depicts a full crew of three astronauts inside China's first space laboratory, the Tiangong 1.
This image depicts a full crew of three astronauts inside China’s first space laboratory, the Tiangong 1.
CREDIT: China Manned Space Engineering Office

How large is the Tiangong 1 space lab?

Tiangong 1 is a cylindrical spacecraft that is about 34 feet (10.4 meters) long and 11 feet (3.4 m) wide. The space laboratory weighs about 8.5 metric tons, or about 9.4 short tons (U.S.).

The Chinese space station prototype consists of two major segments: the experiment module and a resource module.

The experiment module is the primary work and living area for visiting astronauts. It is powered by two solar arrays and serves as the docking point for arriving Shenzhou spacecraft. According to a mission overview video, the laboratory can be left unmanned or host visiting crews of up to three astronauts.

The solar arrays are attached to the Tiangong 1 resource module, which also contains the propellant tanks and rocket engines for the spacecraft.

China's Tiangong 1 spacecraft and Long March 2F rocket is pictured at the launch site after being transferred from a facility at the Jiuquan Satellite Launching Center.
China’s Tiangong 1 spacecraft and Long March 2F rocket is pictured at the launch site after being transferred from a facility at the Jiuquan Satellite Launching Center.
CREDIT: China Manned Space Engineering

How will China launch Tiangong 1?

China will use a special version of its Long March 2F rocket to launch the space laboratory. The rocket, called a Long March 2F T1, is a modified version of the booster China uses to launch its crewed Shenzhou spacecraft. It does not have a launch escape system (since Tiangong 1 is launching unmanned) and includes a custom fairing and an improved rocket booster structure in order to increase its lift capacity, Chinese space officials said.

The Long March 2F T1 rocket is about 170 feet (52 meters) tall and can launch payloads of up to 8.6 metric tons into space. It weighs about 493 metric tons at liftoff. It will launch from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China.

When will the first docking at Tiangong 1 occur?

China currently plans to launch its first Shenzhou spacecraft to Tiangong 1 in early November. That mission, Shenzhou 8, will be unmanned. The mission is expected to last at least 12 days and include two docking demonstrations. [Infographic: How China’s First Space Station Will Work]

If that first mission is successful, at least two more flights (Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10) are planned in 2012. The Shenzhou 10 mission may carry the first crew to the Tiangong 1, and may include China’s first female astronaut, according to state media reports.

A Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft closes in on the country's Tiangong 1 space lab in this still from a mission profile video.A Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft closes in on the country’s Tiangong 1 space lab in this still from a mission profile video.
CREDIT: China Manned Space Engineering Office

How high will the Tiangong 1 fly?

The Tiangong 1 module will initially launch into a 217-mile (350-kilometer) orbit around Earth, which will require two maneuvers by the spacecraft after liftoff in order to reach the planned flight path. While in this orbit, the spacecraft will be put through several systems tests.

If all goes well, the Tiangong 1 will be lowered to an orbit of about 213 miles (343 km) in order to meet the Shenzhou 8 spacecraft in November. At the end of that mission, the space lab will return to the higher orbit to await the next visiting Shenzhou spacecraft.

Where is the Tiangong 1 space laboratory controlled from?

The Tiangong 1 mission will be controlled by flight controllers at the Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center, the Mission Control for China’s human spaceflight program.

China's Tiangong 1 re-entry and disposal in Earth's atmosphere.
China plans to dispose of the Tiangong 1 space laboratory by commanding it to burn up in Earth’s atmosphere at the end of a two-year mission.
CREDIT: China Manned Space Engineering Office

How long can the Tiangong 1 spacecraft stay in space?

Currently, China plans to keep the Tiangong 1 module in orbit for about two years, after which the spacecraft will be commanded to destroy itself by burning up in Earth’s atmosphere, according to a mission profile video.

You can follow SPACE.com Managing Editor Tariq Malik on Twitter @tariqjmalik. Follow SPACE.com for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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