by Morris Jones for SpaceDaily
Sydney, Australia (SPX) Oct 10, 2016
China's Shenzhou 11 spacecraft will carry two astronauts to the Tiangong 2 space laboratory this month. Exactly when this will happen is yet to be confirmed by the Chinese themselves.
At the time of writing, we are roughly a third of the way through October, and China hasn't discussed any recent progress on the launch.
A few crumbs of information have been supplied, such as the improved in-flight menu, but we don't know anything about the rollout of the Long March 2F rocket that will launch the mission.
If China wants to launch in October, then the passing of time is gradually closing the launch window for Shenzhou 11.
We will probably get some minor reports when the rocket is finally rolled out to the launchpad. That will be a clue that China plans to launch in a matter of days. But launch opportunities to dock with Tiangong 2 are frequent.
China can afford to slip a few days if the weather is unfavourable at the launch site, or if the rocket requires some last-minute technical checks. China presumably has a targeted launch date at this time, but it is possibly not set with total rigidity.
We will probably learn more in the next week. But if we don't, it's a sign that China is targeting a launch date closer to the end of the month. It could also indicate that the launch has slipped beyond October, possibly due to technical reasons.
All things considered, a major delay to the launch seems unlikely.
There are still no indications about the crew. We have known for a long time that there will be two astronauts aboard Shenzhou 11. They will both be men. We can guess that one will be a veteran astronaut, but it's still not clear if this is really the case.
Shenzhou 11 itself is essentially a standard mass-production Shenzhou spacecraft with a docking system, similar to every Shenzhou spacecraft launched since Shenzhou 8.
We would really like to know more right now. As usual, we have to wait for more information, just as we have to wait for the launch itself.
Dr Morris Jones is an Australian space analyst who has written for spacedaily.com since 1999. Email morrisjonesNOSPAMhotmail.com. Replace NOSPAM with @ to send email. Dr Jones will answer media inquiries.
China Manned Space Engineering (CMSE)
The Chinese Space Program - News, Policy and Technology
China News from SinoDaily.com
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