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Project 921 Shenzhou
China and Piloted Space Programs


In the 1990's, China began developing a spacecraft designed to carry astronauts. The Shenzhou spacecraft is based on the three-seat Russian Soyuz capsule, although extensive modifications have been made. The craft, called the Shenzhou, lifts off from Jiuquan Space Launch Center in northern China. Landings take place in remote areas of Inner Mongolia.

The descent cabin lies in the middle of the spaceship, and is the astronaut's cabin and the command and control center. It is a airtight structure with a hatch on the top for astronaut to get in and out of the descent cabin and enter the orbital module, and it is the only landing part of the spaceship to return into the air and to land on the earth. The carrier descent cabin of Shenzhou spaceship is bell-shaped and its outer part is made of high temperature resisting compound material. It is 2.5 meters high and weights 3 ton with diameter of 2.5 meters. It can accommodate three astronauts. It is a modified version of the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, but with a 13% larger cockpit-equipped descent module.

The spacecraft's total length with it orbital module, descent module and instrument propulsion module is approximately 8.8 meters, base flared skirt diameter 2.8 meters, total mass 7,800 kilograms. In advancement spacecraft has two solar cell wing, attached to the outside of the instrument propulsion module module below the descent cabin. The two solar cell wing total area 24.48 square meters, which are deployed after launch have a wingspan width is approximately 17 meters. There are two solar cell wing on the outer Obital module total area 12.24 square meters, which are deployed after launch with a wingspan width approximately 10.4 meters. The god boat has 13 subsystems and its supplies the power distribution. The structure and the organization subsystem guaranteed the airship the configuration, and provides the life for the astronaut the structure space. The Shenzhou spaceraft orbital module has a mass of 2,000 kg with a length of 2.8 meters and a diameter of 2.25 meters.

Shenzhou-4 included a microwave radiac set mainly uses in to survey the precipitation, the atmospheric content, the snow, the soil ingredient, the sea-level temperature; Also may obtain the vegetation growth situation, carries on to the crops evaluates assets. The radar altimeter may obtain sea dynamics parameter and so on the ocean waves significant wave height, sea circulation, this measuring technique is at present to the global scope sea water, the sea ice surface carries on all-weather, is continual, the real-time high accuracy survey only method, has extremely the great significance to the natural disaster research. The radar scattered counts in surveys on the mechanism uses on the international advanced circular cone scanning method, this method only had in the satellite detection uses, it were allowed to survey the sea level wind speed and the wind direction, thus measured the sea level wind field, might apply to the sea power research, the sea condition forecast and the disaster monitor and so on many aspects.

The overall configuration of SZ-5 is mostly identical to SZ-4 with the exception of two areas. The forward end of SZ-5 would be cylindrical in shape instead of the hemispheric shape on SZ-4, and a docking unit for a future orbiting spacelab would be installed on SZ-5. The basic mission operation of SZ-5 would be the same as on SZ-4. The SZ-5 orbital module appears to be carrying both SIGINT equipment on its nose section and high rresolution Imagery equipment on its side based on the SZ-5 hardware imagert released and imagery of previous flown unmanned test spacecraft and official discussions of the planned payload hardware. The presence of test spacecraft docking equipment on the Orbital module is uncertain.

On 15 February 2003, the Commander-in-Chief of the Chinese manned spaceflight application system Zhang Houying had said in a public lecture in Beijing that a science payload, a CCD camera, would be mounted to the exterior of SZ-5. "The externally mounted camera is called a CCD transmission camera, with a ground resolution of 1.6 meter. Its main use will be in military reconnaissance," Zhang told the audience of more than 200 at the lecture. The resolution of the SZ-5 external CCD camera, interestingly, is very similar to the 1.8-meter imaging resolution of the Israeli remote sensing satellite EROS-A1.

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Page last modified: 21-07-2011 00:50:31 ZULU