China launched the second three-member crew for a three-month stay aboard the Tiangong space station early Saturday morning local time.
The Shenzhou-13 spacecraft carrying commander Zhai Zhigang and crewmates Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center aboard a Long March 2F booster at 12:23 a.m. (12:23 a.m. EDT Friday). The crew is scheduled to dock with the space station about 6.5 hours after launch.
SpaceX dominated, China surged and Russia had another clean sheet as American astronauts flew from U.S. soil again in a year of firsts.
First in a series
by Douglas Messier Managing Editor
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, 2020 was a very busy launch year with a number of firsts in both human and robotic exploration. A total of 114 orbital launches were attempted, with 104 successes and 10 failures. It was the same number of launches that were conducted in 2018, with that year seeing 111 successes, two failures and one partial failure.
Three Chinese astronauts launched into orbit on Thursday morning local time for a three-month mission to the nation’s first permanent space station. It will be the longest human space mission in Chinese history, and the country’s first crewed fight in nearly five years.
The mission is commanded by Nie Haisheng, 56, who has logged more than 19 days in space on two previous flights. Nie, who is a major general in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, was joined by Liu Boming, 54, who will be flying to space for the second time, and rookie astronaut Tang Hongbo, 45.
Three astronauts will launch on Thursday morning local time aboard the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft for a three-month long mission to China’s first permanent space station. It will be the longest human space mission in Chinese history, and the country’s first crewed fight in nearly five years.
Launch of the crew aboard a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center is scheduled for June 17 at 0122 UTC (June 16 at 9:22 p.m. EDT).
In a few short weeks, the International Space Station (ISS) will no longer be the only station in Earth orbit.
China plans to launch the Tianhe core module core module of its first permanent space station aboard a Long March 5B rocket from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site. Spaceflight Now‘s launch calendar has the flight taking place on April 29.
China’s Long March 7A rocket made its first successful flight on Friday, placing a technology verification satellite into orbit nearly a year after the booster failed in its maiden launch.
The booster lifted off at 1:51 a.m. from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in southern China. The payload was the Shiyan-9 satellite, which will demonstrate new technologies.
A variant of the Long March 7 rocket, the three-stage booster is equipped with a third stage powered by hydrogen and liquid oxygen that is adapted from the older Long March 3B.
Long March 7A, which features four strap-on motors, is capable of launching 7 metric tons to geosynchronous transfer orbit (GTO). This is a significant improvement on the Long March 3B, which can lift 5.5 metric tons to LEO.
Long March 7A’s first two stages and strap-on motors are powered by kerosene and liquid oxygen. These are cleaner propellants than the toxic hypergolic ones used on the Long March 3 and Long March 2 boosters, which Long March 7A will replace.
The maiden flight of Long March 7A failed during a classified launch on March 16, 2020. Long March 7 has succeeded in both of its launches.
China has succeeded in five of its six launches in 2021. An i-Space Hyperbola-1 booster carrying several unidentified payloads failed after launch on Feb. 1.
China’s new reusable spacecraft landed on Sunday after a two-day test flight in Earth orbit, the official Xinhua news agency announced.
“The success indicated that China has achieved key breakthroughs in researching the spacecraft’s reusable technologies. It will provide more convenient and cheaper transport for the peaceful use of space in the future,” Xinhua said.
The spacecraft landed back at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center where it was launched aboard a Long March 2F booster on Friday.
China has not released any details about the spacecraft. It is possible the vehicle is similar to the U.S. military’s uncrewed X-37 space plane, which is launched aboard a rocket and glides to a landing on a runway.
A Chinese rocket launched a “reusable experimental spacecraft” into Earth orbit on Friday.
The Long March 2F booster lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China.
China has released no details about the vehicle. However, it could be similar to the U.S. military’s X-37B reusable space plane.
“After a period of in-orbit operation, the spacecraft will return to the scheduled landing site in China. It will test reusable technologies during its flight, providing technological support for the peaceful use of space,” the official Xinhua news agency said.
The Long March 2F rocket has been used to launch Shenzhou crewed spacecraft and two Tiangong space stations. This was the 14th launch of the booster.