Извиняйте мужики, на перевод время нет. :((
Manned Program Advances
Chinese Space Technology
CRAIG COVAULT/CAPE CANAVERAL
Chinese design is a modified version of Soyuz but with a more cylindrical orbital module (A). Descent module (B) is virtually identical to Soyuz. Service module © carries major subsystems. The Chinese added solar arrays to forward orbital module, but may not have deployed them on first flight.
Unmanned test reveals multibillion-dollar investment;
Chinese military lauds significance
China's successful unmanned flight test of a manned spacecraft--and the uprated booster to carry it--show the Chinese space program has reached a new level of maturity for the design, integration and fabrication of more advanced space systems for both military and civil applications.
Designated Project 921, the program marks Asia's first free-flying manned spacecraft design to reach orbit.
Development of the "Shenzhou" spacecraft, its large new Jiuquan launch and rocket assembly facilities and new Beijing mission control center illustrate the multibillion dollar commitment China is making toward additional space efforts. Only Russia and the U.S. have undertaken manned spacecraft development prior to the debut of Chinese spacecraft.
The 7,200-kg. (16,000-lb.) Shenzhou vehicle was launched late on Nov. 20 from the Jiuquan launch site in the Gobi desert in northeast China on board a Long March 2F booster with 1.3 million lb. of thrust. Overall mass of the launch vehicle and payload was about 450,000 kg. (1 million lb.).
The vehicle made 14 Earth orbits during a 21-hr. flight that ended with the descent module's parachute landing Nov. 21 on the plains of Inner Mongolia. Both the launch and landing were conducted at night. The vehicle is a modified version of the Russian Soyuz developed by the Soviet Union more than 30 years ago.
The flight was controlled from a large new Beijing control center with about 75 console positions in the main mission control room--an unusually large number of controllers by Western standards.
China had hoped to achieve its first manned mission in the new spacecraft this year to help celebrate the 50th anniversary of Communist Party rule, but the project fell behind and the first manned flight was slipped until 2000 or later.
The program could, however, give China leverage for possible participation in the International Space Station program at some future date. That ISS participation would not involve Chinese spacecraft for many years--if ever. But it could involve the launch of Chinese astronauts on the shuttle as guest payload specialists on the international station. "This is a very big deal," said NASA Administrator Daniel Goldin. "It would have to be decided not only by the NASA administrator, but also by 16 governments." He noted that it took five years for even Russia to be added.
The Shenzhou spacecraft is relatively crude by Western standards, but a primary Chinese objective is to use the new manned program to raise its aerospace technological prestige to a level more on par with the U.S. and Russia.
It is also important for internal Chinese leadership reasons--especially between the civilian and military political sectors. Some of that prestige value is "already being tested" by the Chinese military, said Marcia S. Smith, a respected space policy analyst for the U.S. Congressional Research Service.
"It's more than just a project to make them 'feel good'--some in China view it as a step in the evolution of Chinese military capability," Smith said.
The Chinese government-controlled China Business Times also raised the military issue saying the rocket thruster and control technologies developed in Project 921 could help Chinese ballistic missile warheads avoid interception by any U.S. missile defense system.
Aviation Week & Space Technology reported in 1987 that China was developing a manned space program and then reported in 1996 that the effort was moving toward first missions by 1999 (AW&ST June 29, 1987, p. 22; Oct. 21, 1996, p. 22). U.S. National Reconnaissance Office advanced KH-11 imaging reconnaissance spacecraft have been, over the last 3-4 years, imaging major Project 921 facility construction at Jiuquan, while National Security Agency communication intercepts have provided data on the pace of the program.
Chinese officials have indicated the first manned flight could occur as early as next year, or anytime within the next five years, and that additional unmanned tests are planned.
Chinese industry built the spacecraft and booster, but Russia provided extensive technical help under a largely secret Chinese/Russian manned flight technology agreement administered in part by the Russian Space Agency and Energia.
The manned spacecraft is expected to carry 2-3 Chinese pilots. The Chinese call their astronauts "taikonauts" from the Chinese word for "space" and several are already training for the mission.
From a scientific and technological standpoint, the experience of developing and testing a manned spacecraft (and man-rating a launch vehicle) will be more important to Chinese aerospace than anything their astronauts will be able to actually accomplish in space in the new vehicle.
These benefits include new capabilities in computers, aerospace materials, fabrication technologies, electronics and integration and test as well as experience in developing major subsystems such as guidance, attitude control, propulsion and life support. This will aid both civilian and military aerospace programs.
Although the Chinese program is uprating a 30-year-old Russian design, they have started their manned program on a higher technical plane than the Soviet Union or the U.S., said Geoffrey E. Perry, an expert on Russian space technology who heads the Kettering Space Observer Group. The U.S. did not launch a Gemini spacecraft with similar complexity until about four years after the start of Project Mercury and the Russians conducted about six years of Vostok and Voskhod manned spacecraft operations before moving to the Soyuz design.
Like the Russian Soyuz, the Chinese spacecraft is composed of three sections. This includes a rear-mounted service module where electrical and propulsion systems are housed, a central pressurized descent module where the crew rides during launch and reentry and a forward orbital module to provide extra living space when the vehicle is in orbit. The original Soyuz was about 9-meters (30-ft.) long.
For reentry, the Chinese descent module was separated from the orbital and service modules and landed on a single large parachute. Four small touchdown rockets fired 1.5 meters (5 ft.) above the ground to cushion ground impact. This portion of the Chinese spacecraft--about the size of a Volkswagen Beetle--appears to be a carbon-copy of the original Soviet design.
The Chinese unmanned military imaging reconnaissance program had already demonstrated the attitude control and heat shield technology (including wooden heat shields) to safely reenter and land capsules, so much of the technology in the new vehicle is likely derived from the reconnaissance program. But the orbital and service modules of the spacecraft are different from the Soyuz.
On the Russian Soyuz still used today, the orbital module is spherical. But the Chinese vehicle is more cylindrical. It also has solar arrays mounted on both of its orbital and service modules, while the Russian design uses only rear-mounted arrays. Chinese television images of the vehicle during assembly clearly showed the forward solar arrays, but some Chinese depictions excluded them, so it is not certain whether the forward arrays were actually deployed during the first flight.
It is possible the Chinese plan to eventually link two of the spacecraft in orbit. Such operations would require substantial practice at space rendezvous, something the Chinese have never attempted in 30 years of unmanned satellite operations.
The Chinese have commented about the development of a space station and "depending upon one's definition of a space station" they could fulfill that goal in a rudimentary manner by docking two of the small Shenzhou spacecraft together, Smith said.
The spacecraft's liquid rocket system should be capable of orbit change maneuvers, but tracking data indicates no maneuvers were made on this first flight--except for yaw, pitch and roll thruster firings.
The development of the Long March 2F booster and its astronaut launch escape system is another major technical element of the program.
The 2F booster is derived from the Long March 2E which first flew in 1990. The vehicle stands about 50 meters (164 ft.) tall and involves a two-stage core with four liquid strap-on boosters to supplement first-stage flight.
The vehicle lifts off on eight engines, four YF-20 engines in the core and one YF-20 in each strap-on. The second stage has a single YF-22 engine. All of the engines use nitrogen tetroxide and UDMH propellants.
The challenge in Project 921 was to man-rate the booster. U.S. expendable boosters were man-rated by applying a more rigorous parts specification to key components, more precise vendor lot component selections and more rigorous quality control.
The launch escape system visible on pictures of the 2F is virtually identical to that used by the Soyuz. It involves a launch escape rocket tower to pull the spacecraft and shroud off the booster and large aerodynamic panels folded against the shroud's side. In a launch abort, those panels would fold down to stabilize the ascent after the tower fired. This would allow the descent module to drop safely out of the bottom of the fairing, then deploy its parachute for landing.
Earlier views of the vehicle on the pad also showed a large new vehicle assembly building, smaller but similar in appearance to the Kennedy Space Center VAB (AW&ST June 14, p. 85). Internal views of the facility show multiple work platforms rising beside the rocket.
The launcher is also rolled to its pad on a mobile transporter, similar to that used at Kourou, French Guiana, for the European Ariane 4 and 5 and at Tanegashima, Japan, for the H-2. All of these facilities are extremely expensive to build and underscore China's commitment to proceeding with Project 921 in the coming years.
The Chinese also said the flight utilized a new ground tracking network including four tracking ships at sea, one of which, the Yuan Wang 3, positioned in the South Atlantic, was used to command the service module's engine for retrofire.
Pictures of the vehicle in assembly showed modern clean room facilities more comparable to U.S., European or Japanese sites than to Russian facilities.
China's People's Liberation Army played a major role in the project. And the primary government-owned companies involved in the development are the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., the Chinese Research Institute of Space Technology, the Shanghai Research Institute of Astronautical Technology and Chinese Research Institute of Carrier Rocket Technology.
In addition to the manned technology, China is also developing a more advanced military unmanned optical imaging reconnaissance spacecraft as well as an imaging radar spacecraft. A new navigation satellite program is also under development that ultimately could aid Chinese ballistic missile submarine targeting.
Another major example of Chinese space technology progress was the development and Oct. 14 launch of the joint Chinese Brazilian Earth Resources Satellite (CBERS), also called Zi Yuan-1. The 1,450-kg. (3,190-lb.) spacecraft was launched into an 800-km. (500-mi.) Sun-synchronous orbit by a Long March 4B booster. China provided 70% of the funds for the complex spacecraft and participated heavily in its development.
© November 29, 1999 The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc