Shenzhou spacecraft

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Shenzhou (Chinese: 神舟; pinyin: Shén Zhōu) is a spacecraft developed and operated by the People's Republic of China to support its manned spaceflight program. The name is variously translated as "Divine Craft," "Divine Vessel of the Gods," "Magic Boat" or similar, and is identically pronounced, though differently written, with a literary name for China (神州; literally "Divine Land").[citation needed] Its design resembles the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, but it is larger in size and all-new in construction. Moreover, unlike the Soyuz, the orbital module of the Shenzhou is equipped with its own propulsion, solar power, and control systems, allowing autonomous flight. The first launch was on November 19, 1999 and the first manned launch was on October 15, 2003. In March 2005, an asteroid was named 8256 Shenzhou in honor of the spacecraft.

Contents

History

China's first efforts at human spaceflight started in 1968 with a projected launch date of 1973.[1] Although China did launch an unmanned satellite in 1970 and has maintained an active unmanned program since, this attempt was canceled due to lack of funds and political interest.

The current Chinese human spaceflight program was authorized on April 1, 1992 as Project 921/1, with work beginning on January 1, 1993. The initial plan had three phases:

  • Phase 1 would involve launch of two unmanned versions of the manned spacecraft, followed by the first Chinese manned spaceflight, by 2002.
  • Phase 2 would run through 2007, and involve a series of flights to prove the technology, conduct rendezvous and docking operations in orbit, and operate an 8-tonne spacelab using the basic spacecraft technology.
  • Phase 3 would involve orbiting of a 20-ton space station in the 2010–2015 period, with crews being shuttled to it using the eight-ton manned spacecraft.

The chief designers of the Shenzhou include Qi Faren and Wang Yongzhi.

The first four unmanned test flights happened in 1999, 2001, and 2002. These were followed by manned launches on October 15, 2003, October 12, 2005, and September 25, 2008. It would be launched on the Long March 2F from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The command center for missions is the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center.

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