JIUQUAN, June 26, 2016 Technical personnel monitor the reentry module in Badain Jaran Desert in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, June 26, 2016. A reentry module aboard carrier rocket Long March-7 touched down successfully in Badain Jaran Desert Sunday. (Xinhua/Chen Bin)
A reentry module aboard carrier rocket Long March-7, which was launched on Saturday, was successfully recovered on Sunday, a move paving the way for technological breakthroughs in China's future manned spacecraft.
According to officials in charge of the country's manned space engineering, the module landed in Badain Jaran Desert in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at 3:41 p.m.
Before its landing, the reentry module weighing about 2,600 kilograms spent about 20 hours in orbit.
In addition to laying a solid foundation for technological breakthroughs in designing future manned spacecraft, the recovery of the reentry module also means the Long March-7 has fulfilled all the objectives of its maiden flight, according to the officials.
In a message congratulating on the success of the mission, the Communist Party of China Central Committee, the State Council and the Central Military Commission said the move marks the nation's improved capability in entering the space.
The success will encourage people of all ethnic groups and military officers and soldiers in the process of realizing the Chinese dream of the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation and building a strong army, the message read.
As China's new generation of carrier rocket, Long March-7 was launched from the Wenchang space launch center in south China's Hainan Province. The launch is the first at the Wenchang site, and the 230th of China's Long March carrier rocket family.
Tang Yagang, an official with China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview that the mission tested the core technologies of future manned spacecraft in orbit.
According to Tang, who works for the Long March-7 project, future reentry modules would be able to stay longer in orbit and carry more people.
Members of ground search unit prepare for the touching-down of a reentry module aboard carrier rocket Long March-7 in Badain Jaran Desert in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, June 26, 2016. A reentry module aboard carrier rocket Long March-7 touched down successfully in Badain Jaran Desert Sunday. (Xinhua/Chen Bin)
Technical personnel check the reentry module in Badain Jaran Desert in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, June 26, 2016. A reentry module aboard carrier rocket Long March-7 touched down successfully in Badain Jaran Desert Sunday. (Xinhua/Chen Bin)(yxb/wjq)
Technical personnel check the reentry module in Badain Jaran Desert in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, June 26, 2016. A reentry module aboard carrier rocket Long March-7 touched down successfully in Badain Jaran Desert Sunday.
China awaits next-gen space capsule return after Long March 7 launch
Space tourists' view the maiden Long March 7 launch from beaches near the new Wenchang spaceport. (Photo: CNS)
China is a awaiting the return a scale version of its next-generation crew space capsule on Sunday, following the successful launch of its new medium-lift Long March 7 rocket on Saturday.
The multi-purpose spacecraft re-entry capsule, the development of which was revealed in March, is designed to meet China's future ambitions for human deep space exploration, such as missions to the Moon, Near Earth Asteroids and potentially Mars.
The 2,600 kg spacecraft is expected to touch down around 16:00 local time (08:00 UTC), some 20 hours after launch from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Centre on the Long March 7.
It is expected to take around 35 minutes from braking to landing in Inner Mongolia, where rescue crews have been rehearsing for a difficult recovery.
Above: Recovery crews rehearse for the return of the test capsule (Framegrab/CCTV).
"There are two major difficulties. One, the area is too vast, and two, the terrain is complex. In this mission, we will have to search the mountainous area, the desert, the saline-alkali marsh, and other terrain," Du Yunxin, head of the search team, told state media.
Liu Chengjun, assistant to the chief engineer of the Long March 7 launch vehicle, explained to CCTV that the capsule would return to Earth in a different manner to the current Shenzhou spacecraft used for Chinese human spaceflight.
"The re-entry module of the Shenzhou 10 spacecraft did not return by swirling. It was controlled by lift force and was controllable. There was a control system of the re-entry module to ensure that it targeted at a certain object, which means that it flew towards the aiming point in accordance with the theory of returning back. It controlled the direction. However, this time it is uncontrollable. When it enters the atmospheric layer, it is uncontrollable and it relies on aerodynamic force to fly downward."
The capsule was developed by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), the main contractor for the Chinese space program.
Above: Development team members from CAST in front of the new spacecraft (CAST).
China Launches New Rocket from New Launch Site, New Space Station Next
China successfully conducted the first launch of its new mid-sized Long March 7 rocket from the new Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on Hainan Island today. One of the payloads is a scale model of a new crew spacecraft which is expected to return to Earth tomorrow. This is the beginning of a busy period for China that includes the launch of a new small space station and a crew later this year, plus the inaugural launch of its largest rocket, Long March 5.
The Long March 7 lifted off from Wenchang at 12:00 GMT (8:00 am Eastern Daylight Time; 8:00 pm local time at the launch site).
Long March 7 inaugural launch from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, June 25, 2016. Photo Credit: Xinhua/Li Gang.
Wenchang is China's fourth space launch site. Located on Hainan Island, it has the advantages of being closest to the equator, which is beneficial for satellites travelling to geostationary orbit, and debris from the launch falls into the ocean instead of on land. The other three sites are inland: Jiuquan in the Gobi Desert; Xichang, near Chengdu; and Taiyuan, south of Beijing. China plans to use Wenchang for launches of the Long March 7 and the new Long March 5, expected to makes its debut this year, too.
Long March 7 is a mid-sized rocket (13.5 metric tons to LEO), while Long March 5 will be China's most capable rocket ever at 25 metric tons to LEO. (The largest U.S. rocket is the Delta IV, which can place 28.4 metric tons into LEO.) Among China's plans are launches of a new small space station, Tiangong-2, later this year, and a larger space station in the future (announced dates vary from 2020 to 2023). Long March 7 is envisioned for launches of space station cargo resupply missions.
China had inaugural launches of two new rockets last year, both at the smaller end of the capability scale (Long March 6 and Long March 11) from existing launch sites. The newer Long March rockets use more environmentally friendly fuel and are intended eventually to replace the older models (Long March 2, 3 and 4).
China's official news agency, Xinhua. reported this morning that the Tiangong-2 launch is scheduled for September and a two-person crew will be launched to it in November on the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft. In April 2017, a new cargo spacecraft, Tianzhou-1, will be sent there as well. Tiangong-2 and Tianzhou-1 both apparently will be launched from Wenchang, while crews will continue to be launched from Jiuquan.
China launched its first space station, Tiangong-1, in 2011. Two crews visited it in 2012 and 2013. It ceased operating in March 2016; China has not indicated whether its reentry will be controlled or uncontrolled. It is a very small space station, just 8.5 metric tons. By comparison, the world's first space station, the Soviet Union's Salyut 1, launched in 1971, had a mass of 18.5 metric tons. The first U.S. space station, Skylab, launched in 1973, has a mass of 77 metric tons. Today's International Space Station has a mass of about 400 metric tons and has been permanently occupied by crews rotating on 4-6 month schedules since 2000.
China plans a 60 metric ton space station in the future. Dates vary from 2020-2023. China has launched a total of five crews into space since 2003. SpacePolicyOnline.com has a fact sheet listing all of China's human spaceflight launches, including tests that began in 1999.
This launch placed a scale model of a new crew spacecraft in orbit. It will make 13 orbits of the Earth and land near Jiuquan tomorrow afternoon (tomorrow morning Eastern Daylight Time, which is 12 hours behind China Standard Time). Jonathan McDowell of Jonathan's Space Report tweeted (@planet4589) that the name of the payload is "Subscale Multipurpose Return Capsule."
ChinaSpaceflight tweeted a photo of the capsule before launch.
Quelle: Space and Technology Policy Group