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Copyright Mark Wade
Authorization to proceed with the 921-2 space station came in February 1999, with the first design review in May. A vacuum chamber with a diameter of 7 meters and a height of 12 meters had already been built to test the station. First launch may be expected no earlier than 2002, with a slow rate of assembly of the space station thereafter. Image copyright Mark Wade.
China Prepares Plan For Space Station As China Eyes Manned Mission
by Wei Long
Beijing - June 12, 2000 - China is planning to orbit its own space station via a three phased plan says a technical report made public here last Thursday (June 8).

The Chinese Academy of Engineering held a "Frontiers of Engineering Technology" meeting which was well attended by both academics and industry. During the meeting, thirteen members of the Academy presented oral and written reports on more than ten topics to some 500 people.

Representing the space sector was Wang Yongzhi, the chief manned spaceflight engineer and designer.

According to the Liberation Daily newspaper, Wang wrote in his report, titled "Chinese Manned Spaceflight", that the Chinese space engineering community would go through three phases to achieve the ultimate goal of establishing a permanently manned space station.

The first phase would be launching a manned spacecraft over a series of unmanned and manned flights, delivering yuhangyuan ("astronauts") to near-Earth orbit and returning them to Earth safely. While in orbit yuhangyuan would conduct earth observations and space experiments.

The focus of the second phase is undertaking spacewalking activities (EVAs), docking and related tests, and the launching of a space laboratory which would only be man-tended on a short-term basis and left in an automated mode between visits.

The third phase is the construction of a larger lab that would form China's first space station and which would be permanently manned.

The Liberation Daily, however, did not report a timeline for the various phases.

Wang wrote, "The manned spacecraft engineering project is by far the largest, most complex and technically difficult in the history of the Chinese space program.

There are four basic task objectives for the manned spacecraft:

  • achieve a breakthrough in manned spaceflight fundamental technologies;
  • conduct experiments in earth observations, space sciences and space technologies;
  • provide an early transportation vehicle between Earth and outer space;
  • and accumulate experience for a manned space station system.

The manned spacecraft project consists of seven components, they are: yuhangyuan system; spacecraft utilization system; manned vehicle system; launcher system; launch range system; and landing system.

Wang said that research and development of the manned spacecraft project would go through the stages of design, early research and prototyping, final construction and unmanned test flights, and manned test flights.

"China would aim at conducting fewer unmanned test flights than the former Soviet Union and the United States before sending the first human crew into space," said Wang The chief manned spaceflight engineer and designer further said Wang.

China successfully tested its future manned spacecraft, Shenzhou, for the first time in an unmanned flight in November 1999.

 Comparing the yuhangyuan project to other Chinese space projects, Wang said that it was far more complex, and would entail the combination of medical and engineering aspects of manned space travel, along with other important areas of science such as space life sciences and space medical engineering.

The project is also responsible for selecting and training yuhangyuan to carry out various tasks in space missions, providing yuhangyuan effective medical monitoring and protection, and developing space food and other essential articles.

The first group of yuhangyuan are fighter pilots who are on active duty. They were chosen after many rounds of selection. These yuhangyuan have undergone three stages of basic training, skills training, and finally integrated training for spacecraft operations.

The report declared that after seven years of difficult work, the basic tasks objectives of the manned spacecraft project, codenamed Project 921, and the component systems have all been reached.

Copyright Mark Wade Russia Hopes China Will Seek Help In Building Its Own Space Station
by Wei Long
Beijing - March 22, 2000 - Russia is wooing China for further space cooperation, particularly in supporting Mir operation, according to a report published last week in New York.

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