Initial Operational Capability (IOC):
15 October 2003
Parent System: Shenzhou
Initial Operational Capability (IOC): 2011
Maiden Flight: 15 October 2003
Total Production: 7
Description: The Shenzhou, 'Divine Ship of the Gods' in English, is a modular, expendable, spacecraft developed and operated by the People's Republic of China to support its manned space program. It was developed in the 1990s and early 2000s with the first manned test launch (Shenzhou 5) completed on October 15, 2003. Four previous unmanned test flights were carried out in 1999 (1), 2001 (1) and 2002 (2). The second manned flight (Shenzhou 6) was carried out on October 12, 2005. The third flight (Shenzhou 7) carried out on September 25, 2008, involved the first spacewalk of two members of a crew of three-man. The Shenzhou spacecraft is launched by a Long March 2F rocket from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The Shenzhou 8 due to launch in 2011 is expected to become the final design of the spacecraft encompassing all the improvements which lacked in the previous spacecrafts.
The Shenzhou spacecraft is similar to the Russian Soyuz. It has three modules: orbital module in the forefront, re-entry module in the middle and service module in the aft. The main difference is that the orbital module has its own propulsion, control systems and solar panels. The orbital module is designed to accommodate the crew during their mission in orbit. The re-entry module is the only section designed to return to the Earth's surface. The service module contains the engines, solar panels and instruments.
China is preparing the Tiangong-1 space module scheduled for launch in 2011 to create its first space station along with three Shenzhou spacecrafts (8, 9 and 10). In 2012 the new space station will receive the first spacecraft replacement docking with the Shenzhou 11.
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