While the Chinese celebrate the launch of a three-member crew to the Tiangong-1 space station, two former chairman of India’s space agency ISRO are looking on with both admiration and regret. As China’s program has moved slowly but steadily forward, India’s plans for human space missions have slipped from around 2016 into the early to mid-2020s.
India’s top space scientists praised China’s maiden mission of manned docking of its space lab even as New Delhi’s own human space flight programme seems to have lost momentum.
“It’s a wonderful thing that has happened,” ex-Chairman of Indian Space Research Organisation, U R Rao told PTI here. “Essentially, they are making sure that they are going ahead systematically with manned mission programme”. …
He said India has not started any manned mission programme at all. “We have to have much larger and much more powerful launch vehicle,” Rao said.
China performed its first human docking on Monday:
China’s Shenzhou 9 space capsule — which launched Saturday carrying three astronauts, including the country’s first female spaceflier — linked up automatically with the unmanned Tiangong 1 space lab just after 2 p.m. Monday Beijing time (2 a.m. ET), according to CCTV.
The only other countries to pull off an orbital docking with a manned spacecraft are the United States and then-Soviet Russia, which first did so in 1966 and 1969, respectively.
Shenzhou 9 was to dock with Tiangong 1 twice. The plan called for the first hookup to be conducted in automated mode, following the pattern set last November during an all-robotic docking between Tiangong and an unmanned Shenzhou 8 craft. At some point, the two spacecraft will separate, and the three taikonauts, as China’s astronauts are known, will perform the second docking under manual control.
China launched the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft with three astronauts aboard atop a Long March 2F rocket on Saturday. Commander Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and Liu Yang — the first Chinese woman in space — are headed for a two-week mission to the Tiangong-1 space station. This will be the first human crew to dock with China’s first space station, which was launched last year. The crew will dock with Tiangong-1 on Monday. This is China’s first human launch in nearly four years.
Reports indicate that the launch will take place on Saturday afternoon. The crew will spend two days to reach the Tiangong-1 space station and 10 days on board. China will send its first female astronaut into space on this flight.The space station is about half the size of the Soviet Salyut facilities launched during the 1970s.
Xinhua has an update on China’s human spaceflight program:
China will launch its Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft sometime in mid-June to perform the country’s first manned space docking mission with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module, a spokesperson said here Saturday.
The spacecraft and its carrier rocket, the Long March-2F, were moved to the launch platform at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on Saturday, a spokesperson with the country’s manned space program said….
Check out this update on cooperation with China on human spaceflight:
European Space Agency Director General Jean-Jacques Dordain met with his Chinese counterpart March 22-23 to discuss future cooperation in manned spaceflight, including the potential for a Chinese Shenzhou spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station (ISS).
The two sides met at Dordain’s request on the sidelines of the European Space Agency’s third Automated Transfer Vehicle (ATV) launch to the ISS March 23 to further establish a dialogue and lay the groundwork for potential Sino-European cooperation in manned spaceflight.
“For the moment we cannot dock and rendezvous with the ISS, because our system is not the same as the Americans or the Russians,” said Wang Zhaoyao, the newly named director general of the China Manned Space Engineering Office (Cmseo), adding that experts from both agencies are expected to establish a working group that will meet in Paris next month to discuss Shenzhou’s compatibility with a planned ISS common docking mechanism. “We would like to have cooperation.”
Dordain says the two sides are discussing a range of collaborative opportunities in the area of manned spaceflight, including astronaut training, life-support systems and utilization of each other’s space station facilities.
Three taikonauts aboard China’s Shenzhou 9 spacecraft will dock with the Tiangong-1 space station between June and August, Chinese officials have announced. This will be the first human stay aboard the nation’s first space station, which was launched last year.
The taikonauts will validate rendezvous and docking procedures and conduct experiments aboard the laboratory. Chinese officials have not announced how long the mission will last. A second human is set to follow with Shenzhou 10.
The Chinese government has issued a white paper outlining its space plans for the next five years. Highlights include:
sending the Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spacecraft to “achieve unmanned or manned rendezvous and docking” with the Tiangong-1 space station;*
launching space laboratories, human spacecraft and space freighters into orbit;
making major breakthroughs in key space station technologies;
conducting studies on a preliminary plan for landing astronauts on the moon;
launching orbiters, landers, rovers and sample return missions to the moon;
developing new launch vehicles, including one capable of putting 25 metric tons of cargo into low Earth orbit;
completing construction of the Hainan space launch site and making it operational; and
strengthening its work on space debris monitoring and mitigation.
* I had previously thought that the next two Shenzhou missions (9 and 10) would have crews, but the white paper indicates that at least one of the flights might be automated. The automated Shenhou-8 docking mission appeared — publicly, at least — to have gone off without a hitch, so I’m not sure why they would need to repeat the flight. Curious.
Excerpts from the white paper follow after the break. I have rearranged the order of the subjects covered to place the most interesting material at the top, but I have not altered any of the text.
The Chinese Xinhua news agency reports that the nation will launch its first space station between Sept. 27 and 30.
The 8.5-metric ton Tiangong-1 (Heavenly Palace 1) is about half the size of the early Soviet Salyut space stations that were launched in the 1970s. It will serve as docking target for three Shenzhou spacecraft. The first will dock unmanned to demonstrate that capability. If that mission is successful, two crews will dock at the station and conduct experiments.
The launch of the station was delayed from early September because of a failure of a Long March rocket. Additional checks were required.
Last week, Virgin Galactic Founder Richard Branson predicted that SpaceShipTwo would begin commercial operations within 18 months. He gave a similar estimate during an appearance at the Oshkosh airshow 14 months ago concerning vehicle testing (above).
It was six years ago today that SpaceShipOne captured the $10 million Ansari X Prize. When Scaled Composites test pilot Brinnie Binnie landed the vehicle in Mojave, a new era of space tourism was about three years away. If Branson’s latest estimate holds, it will be about seven and a half years before tourists fly.
Since the X Prize winning flight, not a single pilot or passenger has flown into space aboard a private spacecraft. Meanwhile, 179 passengers have flown into space aboard government-built space shuttle, Soyuz and Shenzhou spacecraft.
China Open To Human Spaceflight Cooperation Aviation Week
Chinaâ€™s human spaceflight program is developing a 13-ton cargo carrier to supply the space station it plans to orbit late this decade, but the programâ€™s leader is ready to discuss using it for International Space Station logistics, as well.
Chinese officials have said that they plan to launch their Tiangong-1 space station by the end of next year or in 2011, according to a report on CCTV.
Qi Faren, Shenzhou-5 designer, said, “Quality is the key to technology. We must guarantee a successful launch. We will launch it whenever we are ready. It will be the end of 2010, or the beginning of 2011.”
Aviation Week reports that NASA and China are exploring how to deepen ties on the space front:
As a former deputy NASA administrator and the head of Chinaâ€™s Manned Space Engineering Office held back-channel talks, human spaceflight officials here offered an unprecedented opportunity to examine the Tiangong-1 docking target and the next in its series of Shenzhou human spacecraft, as well as previously off-limits space facilities.