[LINK] Two Chinese spacecraft dock .. good video

stephen at melbpc.org.au stephen at melbpc.org.au
Thu Nov 3 20:52:12 AEDT 2011

China Technology Surges Forward with Spectacular First Docking in Space

by Ken Kremer on November 2, 2011
spectacular-first-docking-in-space>  (website includes a fine video)

China’s technological capabilities took a major surge forward with the 
successful docking in space today for the first time ever of two Chinese 
built and launched spaceships - orbiting some 343 kilometers in the 
heavens above at 1:37 a.m. Beijing time Nov. 3(1:37 p.m. EDT, Nov. 2). 

China’s goal is to build a fully operational space station in Earth orbit 
by 2020 – about the time when the ISS may be retired.

Today’s space spectacular joining together the Shenzhou-8 unmanned 
spacecraft and the Tiangong-1 prototype space station was an historic 
feat for China, which now becomes only the 3rd country to accomplish a 
rendezvous and docking of spacecraft in Earth orbit. 

Shenzhou is China’s manned spaceflight capsule but is flying without a 
crew for this particular test flight. The prowess demonstrated with this 
triumph paves the way for further manned Shenzhou’s launches soon.

The remarkable space milestone follows in the footsteps of what the 
United States and Russia accomplished decades ago but this was carried 
out with 21st century science, technology and manufacturing abilities 
developed by China during the nation’s rapid rise over the past few 
decades to become the world’s 2nd most powerful economy. 

Shenzhou 8 has been chasing Tiangong-1 in orbit for two days since it was 
launched on Nov. 1 atop a Long March 2F booster rocket from the Gobi 
desert in northwest China. 

The Commander-in-chief of China´s manned space program Gen. Chang 
Wanquan, announced “China’s first rendezvous and docking in space joining 
together the spacecraft Shenzhou-8 and Tiangong-1 space lab module was a 
complete success.” Chang leads the China Manned Space Engineering (CMSE) 
Project and pronounced the achievement at the Beijing Aerospace Control 

Chinese President Hu Jintao sent a congratulatory message from the G-20 
summit in Cannes, France. “I am very pleased to hear the news and I send 
congratulations to all who made this possible. This will push China’s 
manned space program forward.” 

The landmark rendezvous and docking was carried live by state run CCTV 
for all the world to watch. The impressive 2 hour long TV broadcast 
showed simultaneous and breathtaking camera videos from both the 
unpiloted Shenzhou-8 capsule and the Tiangong-1 space station module as 
they viewed one another in the cameras field of view and slowly 
approached together with the lovely Earth as a backdrop.

Mission controllers carefully monitored all spacecraft systems on both 
Shenzhou-8 and Tiangong-1 as they sped closer at about 20 cm/sec and 
stopped at several parking points along the way (400 m, 140 m, 30 m) to 
confirm everything was nominal. 

Chinese engineers and on board systems precisely guided the two 
spaceships and watched for any deviations. In case of any failures they 
had the capability to radio the vehicles to separate. But no deviations 
occurred and the autonomous docking proceeded to completion.

The two vehicles will remain docked for 12 days, then unhook and back off 
about 150 meters and then conduct another practice docking. The second 
practice docking is being done to gain more expertise and confidence and 
will be carried out under different conditions and in daylight. 

The combined Shenzhou-8/Tiangong-1 orbiting complex weighs about 16 tons, 
some 8 tons each. Tiangong-1 is 10.4 m in length and 3.3. m in diameter

China plans two crewed flights to Tiangong-1 starting in 2012. The multi-
person crews aboard Shenzhou 9 & Shenzhou 10 are almost certain to 
include China’s first female astronaut. The astronauts would float into 
Tiangong 1 from their Shenzhou capsules and remain on board for a few 
days or weeks. They will check out the spacecraft systems and conduct 
medical, space science and technology tests and experiments. 

Meanwhile, since the premature retirement of the space shuttle with no 
successor in place, the US has absolutely no capability to launch 
astronauts to earth orbit. Therefore the ISS is totally reliant on 
Russian Soyuz rockets and capsules. US astronauts must hitch a ride to 
space with the Russians. 

The US Senate just passed a NASA budget for 2012 that cuts NASA funding 
and will delay a replacement manned vehicle even further, likely into 
2017. The US House seeks even deeper NASA budget cuts.

Thus China surges powerfully forward in space and science while the US 
political establishment has directed NASA to delay and retrench and 
layoff still more workers.


Stephen Loosley

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