On Oct 17, 2016, China launched the Shenzhou XI manned spacecraft to transport two astronauts, Chen Dong, 37, and Jing Haipeng, 49, to the Tiangong II Chinese space laboratory.
The spacecraft was sent atop a Long March 2F rocket, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, part of the Dongfeng Aerospace City, in the Gobi desert. The spacecraft will travel two days before arriving at the Tiangong II, which was lifted from Jiuquan in mid-September. The astronauts will enter the space lab and stay there for 30 days. This is the longest space stay by Chinese astronauts. Its core missions are to ferry astronauts and technology to the Tiangong II space laboratory. Once in space, it will dock with Tiangong II and commence a 30-day journey.
The 58.34 meter-long, 480 metric-ton rocket is composed of four liquid fuel boosters, one first rocket stage, and one-second rocket stage, as well as fairing and an escape tower, an overall design of two and a half stages.
The main tasks of the Shenzhou XI mission, according to Wu Ping, director of the Chinese Space Agency, are to test the technologies that regulate the docking of the laboratory, to test life support, and conduct a series of scientific research and testing and engineering.
Before Shenzhou XI, China sent 5 missions and 10 astronauts into space since 2003, when the carrier Shenzhou V carried Yang Liwei, now a senior official of the Chinese space program, in Earth orbit.
China is the third country in the world able to organize and send manned rockets after Russia and the United States.
The purpose of the mission is to establish a manned space station which will consist of three parts, a central module attached to two laboratories, each weighing 20 tons, which will enter service in 2022.
After being launched into space on Sept. 15, the scientific applications of Tiangong station II have tested: the cold atomic space clock carried out several tests. The multi-angle wide-spectral imager captured a range of information on Earth surface, along with the measurements of the stereoscopic microwave altimeter. Laser communications experiment has established stable connections between the space lab and ground stations.
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Source: China Daily via Stazione Spaziale Cinese [Cina Oggi]