China Targets Late 2002 For Launch of First Yuhangyuans
Tokyo - March 11, 2001
China would launch the first manned space mission in late 2002 according to a report in the Saturday March. 10 edition of Japan's largest newspaper the Yomiuri Shimbun.
In an interview with the newspaper yesterday Dai Zhengliang, a senior official with China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), said that China had planned to launch three more unmanned test flights of the Shenzhou ("Magic Vessel") manned spacecraft before the first yuhangyuan ("astronaut") crew would go into space.
Dai added that this would place the first manned flight in the second half of 2002, on the Shenzhou-6 (SZ-6) mission.
"The success of a manned spaceflight, which requires reliable technology, will prove that China's space technology has reached a new, higher stage," Dai told the Yomiuri Shimbun.
CASC is a key player in developing and manufacturing the Shenzhou vehicle.
The maiden, one-day flight of Shenzhou occurred on Nov. 20, 1999. The second mission, which was a week long, took place in January this year.
As China only launches the manned spacecraft in the autumn and winter seasons, the next three launches will need to come in quick succession later this year and early next year. This would leave about up to nine months to prepare for the manned SZ-6 mission in late 2002 or early 2003 depending on the outcome of the three remaining unmanned test flights.
The limitation to launch Shenzhou only in the winter months is related to the operations of the fleet of four Yuanwang (YW, Yuanwang means "Long View") tracking ships at sea.
When three of the four Yuanwang ships station in the southern hemisphere, sea surface conditions are usually calm during the spring and summer months, which correspond to autumn and winter months in the northern hemisphere. A calm sea ensures the safety of the crews and ships, and a more stable tracking capability.
The news came after a photo of a new design of the Chinese spacesuit was published midweek to coincide with the Ninth National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) which has been in session in Beijing for the past week.
Delegates at the conference are examining the space program among other key national projects for the current tenth five-year development plan.
On Thursday (Mar. 8) a researcher from the Chinese Academy of Space Technology (CAST) said at a news conference in Beijing that the long range goal of the Chinese manned space program is to build a space station.
The timing of the separate release of information is perhaps not coincidental. This may be a sign that the Chinese government is giving strong approval and support to forge ahead with the manned space program, and a growing confidence with manned spaceflight technologies.
For example the multiple orbit maneuvers that the SZ-2 Orbital Module has executed is a demonstration that China now has the capability to maintain an orbital outpost for extended periods. The SZ-2 Orbital Module has been in space for 59 days since launch.
The SZ-2 mission also checked out extensively the environment control and life protection systems, and returned science payloads back to Earth. However, the actual outcome of the SZ-2 mission remains unknown following a news blackout on SZ-2 since it allegedly landed safely in February
With a strong commitment and the political will, China may indeed achieve the exclusive status of sending its own people in its own rocket in the very near future.
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New Design For Chinese Spacesuits Revealed
Beijing - March 89, 2001
A new spacesuit design, said to be of domestic origin, was disclosed for the first time this week in a black and white photo published in the Globe Times, a supplement to People's Daily. The article does not say whether this is the final design and provides no additional information on the suit