Hong Kong - Oct 09, 2003
The Hong Kong-based Wen Wei Po reports today (Oct. 9) that if all goes well, the first Chinese manned space mission will blast off on Oct. 15 at about 9 a.m. Beijing Time (0100 UTC).
Unidentified sources confirmed with the newspaper that barring from technical issues and inclement weather, the historic Shenzhou-5 (SZ-5) mission would be launched at this hour. These sources also confirmed that China Central TV (CCTV) were asked to preempt its programming "for more than tens of hours" to bring the live coverage to the nation.
In setting the liftoff time, space officials have taken into account of the spacecraft operational attitude and the amount of solar illumination available to the solar arrays on SZ-5.
The single-person mission will last about 21 hours according to the sources. This is essentially the same as the mission duration of the Shenzhou inaugural flight SZ-1.
In the past day Chinese media reported that SZ-5 might only travel in space for one orbit of 90 minutes. Sources flatly denied this to Wen Wei Po. "This is entirely a fabrication out of the media," said an unnamed official.
The official said that the nominal end of mission would happen before 6pm Beijing Time on Oct. 16 (1000 UTC).
Liberation Daily in Shanghai writes today that the Changzheng-2F (CZ-2F or Long March-2F) launcher will deliver SZ-5 into an initial elliptical orbit of approximately 200 km x 350 km. After the first few orbits, SZ-5 would raise its altitude to a circular orbit of about 350 km. SZ-5 will circle the Earth for 14 orbits before making the reentry.
The orbital profile would be basically the same as that of SZ-4, which had an operational circular orbit of 340 km.
SZ-5 would aim to land at its primary site in the county of Siziwang Qi in central Inner Mongolia. The county, primarily an area of livestock farming, is approximately 100 km north of Hohhot, the capital of Nei Mongol (Inner Mongolia) Autonomous Region.
The previous widely reported landing site near Bawang Qi is incorrect. Ta Kung Pao, another pro-Beijing newspaper here, reported on Monday (Oct. 6) that "Bawang Qi" did not exist in the latest map of China or Inner Mongolia, or in the telephone and postal directories.
The backup landing site is east of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre (JSLC), which has also been mistakenly considered to be in Gansu Province. Wen Wei Po revealed yesterday (Oct. 8) that the launch site is located south of the county Ejin Qi, which is in the far western part of Inner Mongolia and is about 300 km northeast of Jiuquan.
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