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. Shenzhou VII Spaceship Airlock Module, Spacesuit Pass Initial Ground Tests

File image from the Shenzou 6 mission.
by Staff Writers
Beijing (XNA) Feb 22, 2008
China has passed initial ground tests for its Shenzhou VII spaceship airlock module and an extravehicular spacesuit, Thursday's China daily quoted a top scientist as saying. "Both the airlock module and the extravehicular spacesuit passed the tests, which simulated the zero-gravity environment of space," said Yang Baohua, head of the China Academy of Space Technology.

"This boosts our confidence in the spacewalk," he said.

The airlock module and extravehicular spacesuit are critical for the mission and their design are challenging for the Chinese scientists.

The airlock is a pressure chamber linking the main body of the spacecraft to the outside. It is a complex piece of equipment but was not required on the previous six Shenzhou space flights, according to Yang.

Similarly, the extravehicular spacesuit, developed by several other scientific institutes, is technologically more demanding than the intra-vehicular spacesuits worn by astronauts on earlier missions. It must protect astronauts from dramatic temperature changes and radiation in space, as well as provide them with food, oxygen and equipment to communicate with the spaceship, experts said.

Currently, fourteen candidates are undergoing training for the Shenzhou VII mission, including China's first astronaut Yang Liwei, who was aboard Shenzhou V in 2003.

But the final three on board have not been decided.

The spacewalk mission is expected to be broadcast live on television.

Yang Baohua said the spaceship's re-entry module is the largest in the world in terms of its available space. Once it returns to Earth, the orbital module will remain in space to carry out experiments.

A successful spacewalk mission will lay the foundation for a space laboratory and space station, he said.

China Academy of Space technology has designed most of China's satellites, including the Shenzhou spaceships.

Although the exact date has not set for the spacewalk, the Shenzhou VII will be launched this year from Jiuquan, Gansu province.

Source: Xinhua News Agency

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China set to launch record number of spacecraft in 2008: report
Beijing (AFP) Feb 19, 2008
China will launch a record number of spacecraft this year, state media reported Tuesday, amid a rise in tensions among world powers over the militarisation of space.

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