China Launches Unmanned Spacecraft Shenzhou-8 Successfully
Nearly a month after the successful Tiangong-1 launch, another unmanned spacecraft designated as Shenzhou-8 was carried by a modified Long March 2F rocket on Tuesday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.
AsianScientist (Nov. 2, 2011) – Nearly a month after the successful launch of Tiangong-1 by China, another unmanned spacecraft designated as Shenzhou-8 was carried by a modified Long March 2F rocket on Tuesday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.
The launch of Shenzhou-8 is considered significant because it marks the first major step by China in trying out docking technology crucial to developing its own space station. Shenzhou-8 is expected to dock with Tiangong-1 on Thursday.
The docking maneuver is sure to be a nail biting moment for the Chinese space team because both Tiangong-1 and Shenzhou-8 have to progressively come closer to each other while revolving around the earth at a whopping velocity of 28,000 kilometers per hour.
Considering the delicate nature of the mission, the Shanghai Space Administration which had participated in the development of Shenzhou-8, successfully simulated the docking maneuver in 2008.
Interestingly, Shenzhou-8 has a Russian docking module reflecting the co-operation of China and Russia in the field of space technology. The flight of Shenzhou-8 also features a few biological samples supplied by the European Space Agency.
About 585 seconds after launch, Shenzhou-8 entered its designated orbit. In the next 48 hours, it will execute five orbital maneuvers by firing its own thrusters while docking with Tiangong-1.
It will remain docked for 12 days, then undock, separate, and attempt another docking. After a few weeks, it will finally detach from Tiangong-1 and re-enter the earth’s atmosphere.
Shenzhou-8 will be followed by another unmanned docking exercise by Shenzhou-9, and then finally by a manned flight, Shenzhou-10.
China hopes to operate its own space station by 2020.
Copyright: Asian Scientist Magazine.
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