China’s Manned Space Engineering Bureau announced today that Beijing will launch the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft, with astronauts Ni Haisheng, Liu Beoming and Tang Hongbo on board, at 9:22 a.m. Thursday.
At the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, a Long March-2 FY12 rocket carrying the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft was refueled this morning.
Ni Haisheng will serve as the flight crew leader, while three other astronauts, Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and Yi Guangfu, will be in the reserve crew.
The Shenzhou-12 mission is the first manned space mission to take place during the construction of the Chinese space station. It has multiple tasks, including technological verification in areas such as the long-term stay of astronauts in orbit, replenishment of space supplies, extravehicular activities and operations, and maintenance in the orbit.
It will also, for the first time, test the search and rescue of astronauts at the Dongfeng landing site, carry out multidisciplinary space applications and experiments, and comprehensively evaluate the functions and performance of each mission-critical system to further check compatibility and coordination.
As scheduled, the Shenzhou-12 spaceship, after orbital injection, will rendezvous and dock in the fast automated mode at the forward port of the Tianhe core module to form a complex with the core module and Tianzhou-2 cargo ship. The astronauts will then move to the core module and start Work and live, in a synchronized arrangement between space and Earth. After a three-month stay in orbit, they will return to the Dongfong landing site aboard the return capsule.
The main unit complex “Tianhe” and the cargo ship “Tianzhou-2” are operating in a stable condition, with all equipment operating normally and ready for the astronauts to meet, dock and move. Ji Zhiming, assistant director of China’s Manned Space Engineering Office, said in an interview with Chinese media that all pre-launch preparations have basically been completed.
China has planned 11 missions to complete the construction of its space station by the end of 2022, which are three launches of space station modules, four flights of cargo ships and four manned missions.. The recently launched “Tianhe” core unit and the cargo spacecraft “Tianzhou-2” have already been formed. complex operating in orbit. Ji said that the upcoming Shenzhou-12 mission has four features, which will verify the functions and performance of the manned space-to-Earth transportation system.
The Shenzhou-12 manned spacecraft has new capabilities, such as rendezvous, robotic rapid docking, rendezvous, radial docking, and 180-day orbit docking. The return technology has been improved with better accuracy of the landing point, and emergency rescue mode will be installed for the first time.
Within three months of the crew’s stay in orbit, many technologies supporting long-term spaceflight will be evaluated, such as renewable environment control, life support, space station supplies, and astronaut health management. The astronauts’ abilities to complete extravehicular activities and operations using robotic arms will also be evaluated. For the first time, they will undertake long-term activities outside the unit to install, repair and maintain equipment. Also, the landing site, which has been changed from “Siziwang” in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, north China to the Dongfeng landing site will activate the emergency search and rescue mode for the first time.
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