AKA: 1st Academy;CASC;Zhongguo yunzaihuojian jishu yanjiu yuan. Location: Beijing-Wan Yuan.
The unmanned first test flight of a prototype of the Chinese Project 921-1 spacecraft took place 49 days after the planned date of October 1, 1999. Shenzhou separated from its launch vehicle and went into orbit about ten minutes after lift-off. The spacecraft was controlled from the new Beijing Aerospace Directing and Controlling Centre. The spacecraft did not manoeuvre during the flight. The first attempt to return the spacecraft to earth came on orbitt 12, but the retrofire command would not be accepted by the spacecraft's computer. A retry on the next orbit also failed.
The Yuanwang-3 tracking ship off the coast of Namibia picked up the spacecraft's signal at 18:49 UT, and commanded retro-fire. This time the spacecraft accepted the command, which probably saved the entire program. The spacecraft passed out of range of the tracking ship nine minutes later. Its trajectory arced over Africa, skimmed the coast of the Arabian peninsula, and then over Pakistan, before re-entering over Tibet.
Following re-entry, the drogue chute deployed at an altitude of 30 km with the capsules soft-landing rockets firing 1.5 m above the ground. The capsule landed at 41 deg N, 105 deg E, (415 km East of its launch pad and 110 km north-west of Wuhai, Inner Mongolia), at November 20 19:41 UT. The spacecraft had completed 14 orbits of the earth in 21 hours and 11 minutes.
After the flight it was reported that not a single primary spacecraft system had failed, so none of the back-up systems were tested. The touchdown point was only 12 km from the predicted position. The soft landing braking rocket worked well - no damage was found to the capsule structure, heat shield or the seals. The jettisoned heat shield, parachute hatch, and drogue chute were found within 5 km of the landing point. The orbital module, which separated prior to retro-fire, continued in controlled flight until 27 November, when it decayed and reentered the atmosphere. A primary payload returned by Shenzhou were 100 kg of seeds, considered valuable to the Chinese after one day of exposure to the space environment. The Chinese space tracking fleet returned from the Shenzhou mission between 12 December 1999 and 4 January 2000. During their 259-day voyage, the four ships traveled 185,000 km and experienced some heavy seas while tracking and communicating with the Shenzhou for a total of 150 minutes. Additional Details: here....
The second unmanned test flight of the Shenzhou manned spacecraft design carried a monkey, a dog and a rabbit in a test of the spaceship's life support systems. Shenzhou 2 was the first test of an all-up flight model of the spacecraft, with a functioning orbital module. It was also the most ambitious space science laboratory ever launched by China. It carried 64 scientific payloads: 15 in the re-entry module, 12 in the orbital module and 37 on the forward external pallet. These included a micro-gravity crystal growing device; life sciences experiments with 19 species of animals and plants, cosmic ray and particle detectors; and China's first gamma ray burst detectors.
The launch was originally scheduled for January 5, but the second stage of the launch vehicle was dented by an access platform while being prepared for roll-out in the vehicle assembly building. This caused several days of delay until it was cleared for flight. Shenzhou 2 made three orbit-raising manoeuvres during its flight, reaching a 330 x 345 km orbit by the end of the initial phase of the mission. Ninety minutes before landing the orbital module depressurised, and the spacecraft went briefly out of control. However this was regained after venting of the atmosphere from the module ended. The descent module and service modules separated from the forward orbital module and external pallet normally. After retrofire by the service module, it separated and the descent module landed at 11:22 GMT on January 16 in Inner Mongolia. Lack of post-recovery photographs led to speculation that the recovery may not have been completely successful. The Shenzhou orbital module had its own solar panels and remained operational in orbit, conducting scientific experiments. It was actively controlled for six months, maneuvering in orbit several times (reaching a final orbit of 394 x 405 km). It then was allowed to decay and reentered the atmosphere at 09:05 GMT on August 24, 2001. The reentry point was near 33.1 deg S in latitude and 260.4 deg E in longitude, over the western Pacific Ocean between Easter Island and Chile.
The third unmanned test of the Shenzhou spacecraft was delayed almost three months when a defective connector was found on the booster after roll-out to the pad in January 2002. The vehicle was disassembled, and all suspect connectors were replaced. The stand-down also revealed ten previously undetected defects in the space capsule. The spacecraft, the first all-up flight model with a functioning (but deactivated) launch escape system, was finally launched and placed into an initial 197 x 326 km x 42.4 deg orbit at 1425 UTC. At about 2120 UTC Shenzhou used its own engine to raise its orbit to 332 x 337 km. The capsule included a dummy astronaut instrumented to monitor life support systems. The descent module returned to Earth on April 1 at 0851 UTC, landing in Inner Mongolia. The orbital module remained in orbit to carry out further experiments, finally being deorbited on 12 November 2002. The spacecraft carried 44 scientific payloads, including a medium-resolution imaging radiometer developed by Chinese Academy of Sciences, installed on the instrument pallet atop the orbital module.
Final unmanned test of the Shenzhou spacecraft. First night launch of the CZ-2F was viewed by Party leaders on a very cold but clear night. The spacecraft carried fifty-two science payloads in four main areas: microwave Earth observation, space environment monitoring, microgravity fluid physics, and biological technology research. The spacecraft's reentry capsule was successfully recovered on 5 January 2003 at 1116 UT. The Chinese released the news and photographs of the capsule in the dusk snow only an hour later. The landing site was 40 km from Hohhot (40.51deg N, 111.38 deg E). As in prior missions, the orbital module continued in orbit. Chinese astronauts trained on the actual flight hardware before the launch and it was officially announced that this successful mission set the stage for a first Chinese manned spaceflight in the second half of 2003. Western observors noted that the orbit and ground track allowed launch of a second rendezvous vehicle, an indication of future manned space station missions. Shenzhou 4 carried 52 scientific payloads including a microwave radiometer using a reflector antenna, installed on top of the orbital module.
China's first manned spaceflight began with the lift-off of the CZ-2F booster into the clear blue morning sky. All went according to plan and China's first man in space, Yang Liwei, entered an initial 200 km x 343 km orbit ten minutes after launch. The naval vessels standing buy for rescue in the Sea of Japan were called back to port.
The highly conservative mission plan was for Yang to remain in the Shenzhou re-entry capsule for the entire 21-hour mission, and not to enter the orbital module. He had two rest periods of three hours each, and was scheduled to eat once or twice meals of what was said to be a superior form of Chinese space food. Frequent communications sessions, including colour television links to the spacecraft, were made possible by China's four tracking ships deployed in the oceans of the world.
As the spacecraft was in its 21st orbit, the orbital module separated. It would stay in the 343 km orbit for a planned six-month military imaging reconnaissance mission. Retrofire was commanded via a tracking ship in the Atlantic off the coast of Africa. Shenzhou-5 landed only 4.8 km from the aim-point in Inner Mongolia with the parachute being sighted by the ground recovery forces prior to landing. Yang landed after 21 hours 23 minutes aloft.