China Manned Space Program

The China Manned Space Program (abbreviation: CMS; Chinese: 中国载人航天工程; pinyin: Zhōngguó Zàirén Hángtiān Gōngchéng), also known as Project 921 (Chinese: 九二一工程; pinyin: Jiǔèryī Gōngchéng), is a space program developed by China and run by the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), designed to develop and enhance human spaceflight capabilities for China. It was approved on 21 September 1992 and been in operation ever since.

China Manned Space Program
CMS Program logo.png
Logo of CMS in the shape of a space station, or the Chinese character "中" as in "中国" (China).
Country China
OrganizationChina Manned Space Agency
PurposeHuman spaceflight
StatusActive
Program history
Duration21 September 1992–present
First flightShenzhou 1
20 November 1999; 22 years ago (1999-11-20)
First crewed flightShenzhou 5
15 October 2003; 18 years ago (2003-10-15)
Last flightShenzhou 13
15 October 2021; 53 days ago (2021-10-15)
Successes18
Failures0
Launch site(s)Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center
Wenchang Space Launch Site
Vehicle information
Uncrewed vehicle(s)Tianzhou cargo spacecraft
Crewed vehicle(s)Shenzhou spacecraft
Crew capacity3
Launch vehicle(s)Long March 2F
Long March 7
Long March 5B

As one of the most complex space programs in the history of China, CMS is split into "three steps", or three phases, which can be summarized as:[1]

  1. Crewed spacecraft launch and return.
  2. Space laboratory with capabilities of extravehicular activities, space rendezvous and spacecraft docking procedures.
  3. Long term space station.

The CMS director is currently Zhou Jianping who has held this position since 2006 after taking over from Wang Yongzhi who served as director from 1992 to 2006.

As of September 2021, China has successfully completed the first two steps, which made China the third nation to master human spaceflight after the Soviet Union/Russia and the United States. The Third Step – the construction of Tiangong space station, is ongoing. Ever since the first spacecraft was launched in 1999, CMS has successfully completed 18 missions, without any astronaut fatality.

HistoryEdit

 
Mockup of FSW satellite

The formal research of China's human spaceflight began in 1968. An institute for medical and space engineering was founded in Beijing.[2] It was the predecessor of China Astronaut Research and Training Center, at which China's astronauts are trained in the following decades. Before that, in 1964, China launched a sounding rocket, carrying several small animals to an altitude of 70 km as an attempt to study the effects of spaceflight on living creatures.[2]

On 24 April 1970, China launched its first satellite, Dong Fang Hong I into orbit. In 1970, Qian Xuesen, the father of China's space program, introduced his human spaceflight project, which was later called Project 714. An early version of crewed spacecraft called Shuguang I was under research. However, this program was cancelled due to lack of funds and political interest. Instead, China decided in 1978 to pursue a method of sending astronauts into space using the more familiar FSW-derived ballistic reentry capsules. Two years later. in 1980, the Chinese government cancelled the program citing cost concerns.[3]

In order to gain relative experience, China launched and recover the first Fanhui Shi Weixing, a recoverable satellite, on 26 November 1975.[4] The success of the mission demonstrated China's capabilities of controlled atmospheric entry.

In 1986, the 863 Program was funded by the Chinese government. It was intended to stimulate the development of science and technologies in several key areas, in which space capabilities were included.[5]

The Chinese human spaceflight program, namely the China Manned Space Program, was formally approved on September 21 1992 by the Standing Committee of Politburo as Project 921,[6] with work beginning on 1 January 1993. The initial plan has three steps:[1]

  1. First Step: Launch a manned spaceship with the aim of building up the fundamental capability in human space exploration and space experiments.
  2. Second Step: Launch a space laboratory tasked with making technological breakthroughs for extravehicular activities, space rendezvous and spacecraft docking procedures, as well as providing a solution for man-tended space utilization on a certain scale and short-term basis.
  3. Third Step: Establish a Space Station with the aim providing a solution for man-tended -space utilization on a larger scale and longer-term basis.

The program is lead by a chief commander and a chief designer, who handle administrative and technical issues respectively. A joint meeting between these two is responsible for making decisions on important issues during the implementation of the project.[6] The first chief designer of the program was Wang Yongzhi. A new organization, China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), was founded for the administration of the program.

DevelopmentEdit

First StepEdit

 
Mockup of early version of Shenzhou spacecraft
 
Shenzhou 5 return capsule displayed in National Museum of China.

The development of Long March 2F, China's first human-rated launch vehicle, began in September 1992.[7] It was derived from the Long March 2E, but with a launch escape system and control system redundancy.

On December 1994, the first hot test fire of human-rated rocket's engine was completed successfully.[7]

In 1996 two pilots from the Air Force, Wu Jie and Li Qinglong, were handpicked and sent to Russia for training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre.[8]

In January 1998, 14 pilots were selected as the first batch of Chinese astronaut candidates.[9]

In November 1998, a new flight control center, Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center, was opened to support CMS missions.[8] Also in that year, a new launch complex adapting the advanced "three verticals" (vertical assembly, vertical testing and vertical transport) strategy was put into service in Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center to support CMS missions exclusively.[10]

On 20 November 1999, Shenzhou 1, the first uncrewed Shenzhou spacecraft, was launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and entered predetermined orbit. The ground electrical test model was used during this test flight to meet the deadline by the end of 1999.[8] The return capsule of the spacecraft successfully separated with other parts and landed intact in Inner Mongolia the next day. Despite only limited systems being tested, the mission was still a successful test flight for the Shenzhou spacecraft and Long March 2F rocket.

The second test flight of Shenzhou occurred on 10 January 2001. Shenzhou 2, the first formal unmanned spaceship of China, was launched into orbit and stayed for seven days before the return capsule separated and performed a safe landing. [11]

In 2002, China launched Shenzhou 3 and Shenzhou 4; both ended in success. All systems of the program had passed the tests perfectly, indicating a manned mission was ready to be conducted.[8]

The fifth launch, Shenzhou 5, was the first to carry a human (Yang Liwei) and occurred at 01:00:00 UTC on 15 October 2003.[12] At 587 seconds after taking-off, the spaceship separated from the rocket and entered an elliptical orbit with inclination of 42.4°, the perigee height of 199.14 km and the apogee height of 347.8 km.[13] Yang became the first Chinese launched into space with Chinese launch vehicle and spacecraft. At 22:23 UTC on 15 October 2003, the re-entry module landed safely on central Inner Mongolia. The whole mission lasted for 21 hours and 23 minutes, making China the third country capable of sending human to space and back independently, after Russia and the United States.

Second StepEdit

The goal of the Second Step of CMS was to make technology breakthroughs in extravehicular activities (EVA) as well as space rendezvous and docking to support short-term human activities in space.[14] To complete the goal, China launched multiple crewed and uncrewed missions, including two prototypes of China's space station.

Phase 1: EVA, space rendezvous and dockingEdit

 
Feitian extravehicular space suit used during Shenzhou 7 mission

The first "multi-person and multi-day" manned space flight, Shenzhou 6, was conducted during 12-17 October 2005. Astronauts Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng spent more than 4 days in space and orbited the Earth for 76 orbits. [15]

On 25 September 2008, Shenzhou 7 was launched into space with three astronauts Zhai Zhigang, Liu Boming and Jing Haipeng. During the flight, Zhai Zhigang and Liu Boming completed China's first EVA with the Feitian extravehicular space suit made in China and the Sea Hawk extravehicular space suit imported from Russia respectively.[16]

In order to practice space rendezvous and docking, China launched an 8,000 kg (18,000 lb) target vehicle, Tiangong 1, in 2011 with a variant of Long March 2F,[17] followed by Shenzhou 8, the first uncrewed Shenzhou spacecraft since Shenzhou 5. The two spacecraft performed China's first automatic rendezvous and docking on 3 November 2011, which verified the performance of docking procedures and mechanisms.[18] About 9 months later, Tiangong 1 completed the first manual rendezvous and docking with Shenzhou 9, a crewed spacecraft carrying Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and China's first female astronaut Liu Yang.[19]

On 11 June 2013, crewed spacecraft Shenzhou 10 carrying astronauts Nie Haisheng, Zhang Xiaoguang and Wang Yaping was launched into orbit and docked with Tiangong 1. The three astronauts spent 12 days in Tiangong 1 by conducting scientific experiments, giving lectures to over 60 million students in China, and performing more docking tests before returning to Earth safely.[20] The completion of the missions from Shenzhou 6 to Shenzhou 10 demonstrated China's technical advancement in human spaceflight, ending phase 1 of the Second Step.[21]

Phase 2: space laboratoryEdit

To further enhance China's human spaceflight capabilities and make preparation for the construction of future space station, China launched the second phase of the Second Step, which consisted of four space laboratory missions.

In June 2016, China conducted the maiden flight of Long March 7, a new generation medium-lift launch vehicle with higher payload capability to low Earth orbit, from the newly built Wenchang Space Launch Site located in the coastal Hainan Province.[22]

In September 2016, Tiangong 2 was launched into the orbit. It was a space laboratory with more advanced functions and equipment than Tiangong 1. A month later, Shenzhou 11 was launched and docked with Tiangong 2. Two astronauts, Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong entered Tiangong 2 and stationed for about 30 days, breaking China's record of longest human spaceflight mission while verifying the viability of astronauts' medium-term stay in space.[22]

In April 2017, China's first cargo spacecraft, Tianzhou 1 docked with Tiangong 2 and completed multiple in-orbit propellant refueling tests, which marked the successful completion of the Second Step of CMS.[22]

Third StepEdit

 
Tianhe core module at ground test
 
Launch of Tianhe Core Module on 29 April 2021
 
Shenzhou 13 crew during the farewell ceremony

On 5 May 2020, China successfully launched the maiden flight of Long March 5B, whose payload capability is greater than 22,000 kg (49,000 lb), allowing China to put a large space station module into low Earth orbit.[23] The mission inaugurated the Third Step of CMS.[24]

The Third Step aims to complete the construction of China's space station Tiangong. It can be divided into two phases:[25]

Phase 1: demonstration of key technologies (underway)Edit

On 29 April 2021, the second Long March 5B rocket lifted off from Wenchang, carrying the 22,500 kg (49,600 lb) Tianhe core module, the largest and most complex spacecraft independently developed by China. The core module entered the predetermined orbit about 494 seconds after launch, marking the start of the in-orbit construction of China's space station.[25]

On 29 May 2021, Tianzhou 2, the first cargo spacecraft to the space station, was launched by a Long March 7 rocket and docked with Tianhe core module 8 hours later.[26] The shipment included astronaut supplies, space station equipment, extravehicular space suits and propellant.[27]

The first crewed mission to Tianhe, Shenzhou 12, was launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on 17 June 2021. The spacecraft conducted China's first crewed autonomous rapid rendezvous and docking 6 hours 32 minutes after launch.[28] Three crew members, Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo, became the first inhabitants of Tiangong Space Station.

At 00:11 UTC on 4 July 2021, two of the Shenzhou 12 crew members, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo, conducted the first EVA on the space station, which lasted for 6 hours 46 minutes, breaking the previous 20-minute EVA record made during Shenzhou 7 mission in 2008 by a huge margin.[29]

The Shenzhou 12 crew returned to Earth safely on 17 September 2021.[30]

On 20 Sep 2021, Tianzhou 3 cargo spacecraft was launched to Tiangong Space Station.[31]

On 15 October 2021, Shenzhou 13 was launched and docked to Tianhe core module 6.5 hours later. The crew, including Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu, planned to complete a six-month stay, the longest one since the beginning of the program.[32] About three weeks later, Zhai Zhigang and Wang Yaping completed the crew's first EVA on 7 November 2021, making Wang the first Chinese female astronaut to perform an EVA.[33]

Phase 2: assembly and construction (upcoming)Edit

Following the conclusion of phase 1, 6 more missions will be conducted to implement phase 2, including launches of 2 laboratory modules of Tiangong, 2 cargo spacecraft and 2 crewed spacecraft. All these missions are scheduled to be carried out by the end of 2022.[34]

Once the construction is completed, Tiangong Space Station will enter the application and development phase in 2023, which is poised to last for no less than 10 years[34] and could even be extended to 15 years[35]

CompositionEdit

 
Foods carried by Chinese astronauts.
 
Long March 2F rocket mockup with internal structures being displayed.
 
Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, the building on the left is the launch pad dedicated for CMS launches.

China Manned Space Program is composed of 14 systems, with more than one thousand units from various sectors involved.[36][1]

The 14 systems and their main objectives are:

Astronaut System

Ensuring the health and performance of astronauts during long term space flight

Space Application System

Making use of the on-board application support capacity to enable space science experiments and investigations.

Manned Spacecraft System

Development of Shenzhou series manned spacecraft used for transporting human into space and back.

Space Laboratory System

Development of two prototypes of future space station, Tiangong 1 and Tiangong 2, for the purpose of technology demonstrations.

Long March 2F

Development of Long March 2F, the human-rated carrier rocket used to launch Shenzhou spacecraft and space laboratories.

Long March 7

Development of Long March 7 carrier rocket designed for Tianzhou cargo spacecraft launching.

Long March 5B

Development of Long March 5B carrier rocket, which is responsible for carrying space station modules for the construction of Tiangong Space Station.

Jiuquan Launch Center

Carrying out launch missions for manned spaceship and space laboratory.

Wenchang Space Launch Site

Carrying out the launching of Tiangong space station modules and Tianzhou cargo spaceships.

TT&C and Communications System

Measuring, monitoring and controlling the flight path, altitude and operating status of the rockets and spacecraft, providing channels for video and voice communications with the astronauts and sending scientific data back to Earth.

Landing Site System

Tracking, searching and locating the landed re-entry capsules, rescuing the astronauts and refurbishing and recycling the re-entry capsules and payloads.

Manned Space Station

Development and building of China's Tiangong Space Station

Cargo Vehicle System

Research and development of Tianzhou cargo vehicle.

Optical Module

Research and development of optical facilities and optical platforms.

MissionsEdit

Mission types:
  Launch vehicle test flight
  Shenzhou spacecraft (uncrewed)
  Shenzhou spacecraft (crewed)
  Space station testbed
  Space station module
  Cargo spacecraft

Conducted missionsEdit

The list below includes all missions operated by CMS, including crewed and uncrewed spacecraft, cargo spaceships, launch vehicle test flights and space station modules.

Upcoming missionsEdit

Sequence
No.
Mission Launch
(planned)
Launch Vehicle Launch Site Duration Landing/Re-entry Landing/Re-entry
Location
Crew Notes
↓ Third Step, phase 2 ↓
22 Tianzhou 4 Mar - Apr 2022 Long March 7 Wenchang (uncrewed) Third cargo spacecraft to the space station.
23 Shenzhou 14 May 2022 Long March 2F Jiuquan ~6 months Jiuquan (TBA) Third crewed mission to the space station to continue its construction.
24 Wentian
Laboratory Cabin Module
May - Jun 2022 Long March 5B Wenchang (uncrewed) Laboratory Cabin Module I of the Tiangong Space Station.
25 Mengtian
Laboratory Cabin Module
Aug - Sep 2022 Long March 5B Wenchang (uncrewed) Laboratory Cabin Module II of the Tiangong Space Station.
26 Tianzhou 5 Oct 2022 Long March 7 Wenchang (uncrewed) Fourth cargo spacecraft to the space station.
27 Shenzhou 15 Nov 2022 Long March 2F Jiuquan ~6 months Jiuquan (TBA) Fourth crewed mission to the space station for its final stage of construction.

AstronautsEdit

November 1996 trainer selectionEdit

There were two astronaut trainers selected for Project 921. They trained at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonauts Training Center in Russia.

  1. Li Qinglong – born August 1962 in Dingyuan, Anhui Province and PLAAF interceptor pilot and space instructor at Star City
  2. Wu Jie – born October 1963 in Zhengzhou, Henan Province and PLAAF fighter pilot

January 1998 astronaut candidate selectionEdit

  1. Chen Quan – PLAAF pilot
  2. Deng Qingming – from Jiangxi Province and PLAAF pilot, back up on Shenzhou 11
  3. Fei Junlong – second Chinese astronaut, commander of Shenzhou 6
  4. Jing Haipeng – born October 1966 and PLAAF pilot, astronaut of Shenzhou 7, Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 11
  5. Liu Boming – born September 1966 and PLAAF pilot, astronaut of Shenzhou 7 and Shenzhou 12
  6. Liu Wang – born in Shanxi Province and PLAAF pilot, flew on Shenzhou 9
  7. Nie Haisheng – back up in Shenzhou 5, flight engineer on Shenzhou 6, commander of Shenzhou 10 and Shenzhou 12
  8. Pan Zhanchun – PLAAF pilot
  9. Yang Liwei – first man sent into space by the space program of China on Shenzhou 5, made the PRC the third country to independently send people into space
  10. Zhai Zhigang – back up in Shenzhou 5, commander of Shenzhou 7 and Shenzhou 13
  11. Zhang Xiaoguang – born in Liaoning Province and PLAAF pilot, flew on Shenzhou 10
  12. Zhao Chuandong – PLAAF pilot

2010 astronaut candidate selectionEdit

  1. Cai Xuzhe
  2. Chen Dong – flew on Shenzhou 11
  3. Liu Yang – first Chinese woman into space, flew on Shenzhou 9
  4. Tang Hongbo – back up on Shenzhou 11, flew on Shenzhou 12
  5. Wang Yaping – second Chinese woman into space, flew on Shenzhou 10 and Shenzhou 13
  6. Ye Guangfu – back up on Shenzhou 12, flew on Shenzhou 13
  7. Zhang Lu

2020 astronaut candidate selectionEdit

18 people - 17 men, 1 woman, all of whose names were not revealed - had been selected as new astronauts. The positions were broken down as 7 spacecraft pilots ("aviators of the People's Liberation Army Air Force"), 7 flight engineers ("former researchers or technicians in aeronautics, astronautics and other related fields"), and 4 mission payload specialists ("those involved in space science and through applications for China's manned space program").[38]

International collaborationsEdit

In 2016, China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) signed a Framework Agreement and a Funding Agreement with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) to increase cooperation on future Chinese space station.[39]

On 28 May 2018, UNOOSA and CMSA announced an initiative to accept applications from United Nations Member States to conduct experiments on-board China's space station.[40]

On 12 June 2019, the winners of the competitors were announced. 9 projects, involving 23 institutions from 17 Member States of the United Nations, were selected by experts.[41]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

CitationsEdit

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  2. ^ a b "Timeline: China's spaceflight history". New Scientist. 12 October 2005. Retrieved 24 July 2021.
  3. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20120419165427/http://www.futron.com/upload/wysiwyg/Resources/Whitepapers/China_n_%20Second_Space_Age_1003.pdf - 5 May 2020
  4. ^ "Timeline: Major milestones in Chinese space exploration". Reuters. 1 December 2020. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
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  7. ^ a b 兰宁远 (2020-01-01). 中国飞天路. 湖南科技出版社. ISBN 9787571002008.
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  28. ^ Jones, Andrew (17 June 2021). "Shenzhou-12 docks with Tianhe space station module". SpaceNews. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
  29. ^ Jones, Andrew (4 July 2021). "Astronauts complete first Chinese space station spacewalk". SpaceNews. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
  30. ^ "China brings astronauts back, advances closer to "space station era"". Xinhua Net. 17 September 2021. Retrieved 17 September 2021.
  31. ^ Navin, Joseph. "Tianzhou-3 cargo craft launches to the Chinese Space Station". NASA Spaceflight. Retrieved 20 September 2021.
  32. ^ Davenport, Justin (15 October 2021). "Shenzhou 13 launch first long-duration Chinese Space Station crew". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved 15 October 2021.
  33. ^ "China's Shenzhou-13 taikonauts complete first extravehicular mission". Xinhua News. 7 November 2021. Retrieved 7 November 2021.
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  35. ^ "China successfully launches first module of planned space station". cnn.com. Retrieved 29 April 2021.
  36. ^ "Constitutes". China Manned Space. Archived from the original on 2 May 2021. Retrieved 26 July 2021.
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  40. ^ "United Nations and China invite applications to conduct experiments on-board China's Space Station". United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs. 28 May 2018. Archived from the original on 3 June 2018. Retrieved 11 July 2021.
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SourcesEdit

External linksEdit