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Chinese Space Workers Celebrate Their Labour To Launch Shenzhou

The control center at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest Gansu Province
by Wei Long
Beijing - Jan 9, 2002
The third unmanned test flight of the Shenzhou ("Magic Vessel" or "Divine Vessel") spacecraft appears to be imminent as thousands of technicians worked through the New Year at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre (JSLC) in northwestern Gansu Province.

People's Liberation Army (PLA) Daily reported Dec. 31 that thousands of technicians and military personnel volunteered to cancel their holidays so that they could continue their duties at the "testing frontline" - a cryptic reference to the Shenzhou-3 (SZ-3) launch.

JSLC Director Zhang Jianqi and PLA political commissar Lu Sicheng led working groups from relevant offices to visit workers at the launch range to assist in some daily chores and boost their morale.

To ensure that workers had a festive New Year, the coordination centre of the working groups ordered 3,600 kg of fresh vegetables, 6,300 kg of pork, beef and goat, and 5,000 kg of fresh fishes to JSLC. Many food stalls were set up so workers could enjoy hearty buffet meals over the holiday.

Working group members assisted launch centre workers in some daily chores, such as delivering milk and taking children to schools. JSLC personnel were also given a special subsidy to buy winter clothing and accessories. The launch centre medical team traveled daily to various parts of the complex to provide medical services. Even the cultural team was in action to perform many entertaining programs at different stations.

Although the PLA Daily report does not make a direct reference to the preparation of the SZ-3 launch, the bustle and the large number of personnel stationed at the centre over the holiday suggests that launch of the third Shenzhou test vehicle is likely.

Last month (Dec. 2001) the entire fleet of Yuanwang ("Long View") tracking vessels held a full scale tracking rehearsal for ten days at the East China Sea, although full details of the rehearsal were not made public the Dec 25 edition of PLA Daily disclosed some information on one of the rehearsal activities.

The newspaper reported that during an exercise session on Dec. 16, the fleet practised radar tracking of satellites. The Yuanwang vessels made continuous tracking of a satellite and the hand-off of tracking responsibility to the next ship down the line.

The Yuanwang fleet encountered rough sea conditions in this practice session, with wave heights reaching 5 meters and gale force wind gusting over 60 km/h. Many crewmembers were seasick, with some crewman roping themselves to their chairs to maintain their safety as they carried out their duties in difficult conditions.

On Monday, well known space watcher Phillip Clark from Molniya Space Consultancy reported to the popular FPspace listserve this week that January 8 had been nominated as one potential launch date.

But with no action so far at Jiuquan, we can only assume the date was either premature or a launch delay due to technical difficulties was encountered.

Last year's launch took place at 1am Beijing time on Jan 10, 2000 and was additionally noteworthly as the first launch of the year. With the first officially slated launch for 2002 scheduled for Jan 15 (Titan 4B/Milstar) from Cape Canaveral, the world awaits movement at the Jiuquan pad to be number one into space for the second year running.

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Chinese Tracking Ships In Full Rehearsal For Shenzhou-3 Launch
Beijing - Dec 27, 2001
Science and Technology Daily reported last Monday (17th) that the entire fleet of refurbished and upgraded Yuanwang (YW, Yuanwang means "Long View") tracking vessels gathered at an unspecified location to carry out a full scale launch tracking rehearsal in mid-December. The report, however, did not provide any details and the duration of the exercise.

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