Shenzhou-9 spacecraft, carrying China's first female astronaut Liu Yang and two male ones Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang, is planned to travel for 13 days in outer space. Two docking procedures, one automated and another manual, will be conducted between Shenzhou-9 and the orbiting space lab module Tiangong-1. The 13 day flight of Shenzhou 9 is centered around the expected docking with unmanned space module Tiangong 1 that was launched on 29 September 2011. This module was the rudiment of China’s space station and is an experimental space laboratory, launched with the objective to carry out the rendezvous and docking test with the Shenzhou 8, that was launched in November 2011. The Chinese see this as a key step towards gaining the experience for the construction, management and operation of a space station.
After the launch, Shenzhou 9 was initially inserted into a parking orbit, before raising its orbital parameters to a near circular orbit with an altitude of 330 km. The spacecraft will take two days to get near Tiangong 1. Providing everything went according to plan, the docking was expected to take place on June 18. Tiangong 1 and Shenzhou 9 would stay docked for a period of 10 days. However, during this time, a second docking maneuver wuld take place. After another period of docking, Shenzhou 9 would return to Earth.
Shenzhou 9 spacecraft launched at 10:37:00 UTC 16 June 2012 from Jiuquan, Peoples Republic of China on a Long March 2F launch vehicle from Jiuquan, Peoples Republic of China. The latest Shenzhou mission was launched with the country's first female astronaut. Thirty-three-year old Liu Yang flies with Commander Jing Haipeng, 46, and fellow flight engineer, Liu Wang, 42… This was China's fourth manned mission. It followed on from last year's unmanned Shenzhou-8 outing which completed successful rendezvous and docking manoeuvres at Tiangong. That gave Beijing authorities the confidence to put astronauts on the current flight.
China’s Shenzhou-9 space capsule, with its crew of three, docked with the Tiangong-1 space lab 18 June 2012, successfully completing China's first manned spacecraft rendezvous and docking. The docking was an automated procedure; computers - not the crew - were in charge of events. The procedure began with the Shenzhou-9, with three astronauts aboard, moving to a location 52 km away from the Tiangong-1 at noon Monday. The spacecraft then slowly drifted toward the Tiangong-1 before making contact with the module at 2:07 p.m. The docking was completed in less than eight minutes.
China successfully completed its first ever manual docking of a spacecraft with another space module 25 June 2012. Astronauts on the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft docked with the Tiangong-1 lab module without relying on an automated system. State television broadcast images of Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and China's first female astronaut, Liu Yang, smiling after completing the exercise. The docking was seen as a key step in the building of a space station, which China hoped to finish by 2020. A manual docking procedure would be used in the event of a failure with the automated system. It was regarded as a difficult maneuver, bringing gently together two orbiting vessels travelling at thousands of miles an hour. Liu Wang took charge of the operation, while Liu Yang conducted aerospace experiments.
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