Launch News China Successfully Launches New Generation Crew Spacecraft Atop CZ-5B 5/5/20 1000 UTC

Nicholas Kang

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Haven't heard some Chinese launches for quite some time. Here's one today. An important one.

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China has launched a new generation crew space capsule at around 10:00 UTC on May 5, 2020, using the first Long March-5B rocket. The launch took place from the LC101 Launch Complex of the Wenchang Spaceflight Launch Center, in Hainan.

Landing is expected between 05:02 and 05:42 UTC on May 6, in an area east of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.


Full webcast (In Chinese, let me know if you need translation :p):


About the New Generation Space Capsule:

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The Prototype Next Generation Chinese Crew Space Capsule​

The new capsule will go to an 8,000 km high orbit before coming to a high-speed re-entry.

The new vehicle will be used in both low-Earth orbit missions and deep-space exploration flights. Capable of transporting six crew members (or 500 kg of cargo with a crew of three), the new capsule as a total length of 8.8 meters, a 5-meter diameter, and a launch weight of 21,600 kg.

The new vehicle, composed of a service module and a return capsule, was designed to be reused ten times.

The service module is discarded before re-entry. It contains liquid oxygen and liquid hydrogen for fuel cell operation and water production (as well as to provide breathing oxygen for the crew), fuel cells, solar panels and batteries to provide electrical power to the spacecraft, guidance computer systems and sensors, fuel and oxidizer for reaction control and propulsion systems and thermal control systems for proper heating and cooling.

The return capsule is the reusable part of the Chinese new generation crew space capsule. It provides a pressurized habitat for the crew, also providing storage for consumables and research instruments. Depending on the mission it can be adapted with a docking port for crew transfers.

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Docking port for the Next Generation Chinese Crew Capsule – via SAST​

The development team used new materials and a new structure to make the heat shielding capacity three to four times greater than that of the Shenzhou spacecraft.

The new vehicle has two versions. A LEO version (with a launch mass of around 14,000 kg) and a Beyond-LEO version (21,600 kg). The main difference between both vehicles is in the service module.

Source: Nasaspaceflight.com, Spacenews.com

N.B. China will proceed with its second Mars mission later this year. Its Mars orbiter will join NASA's Perseverance rover and UAE's Mars orbiter (Yes, UAE has a space agency and it's an orbiter heading to Mars too.) to launch during the upcoming June-July Mars launch window. Wish them luck and stay tuned for more launch threads to come!
 

kuddel

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Nice Booster! And even without solids it rumbles a lot :thumbup:

---------- Post added at 21:19 ---------- Previous post was at 20:18 ----------

Nice overview by Scott Manley
 

Donamy

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A Chinese Cargo Dragon.
 
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Nicholas Kang

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She landed yesterday!

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China’s new generation crew capsule successfully returned to Earth in the early hours of Thursday. Returning under three red and white parachutes, the capsule landed safely under the cushion of airbags at 05:49 UTC on the dry Dongfeng landing zone, Inner Mongolia autonomous region.

The deorbit burn took place at 04:21 UTC, followed by the service module separation at 05:33 UTC. Entry Interface was marked around 05:38 UTC.

Before re-entry into the atmosphere, the capsule executed a skip maneuver employing aerodynamic lift in the high upper atmosphere. The technique is used to extend the re-entry time for vehicles returning to Earth from the Moon to avoid having to shed a large amount of velocity in a short time causing very high rates of peak heating.


Source: NASAspaceflight.com, Spacenews.com
 

Urwumpe

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Looks very SpaceX Dragon like in its appearance. Even the duct for the parachute risers is placed simular.
 

GLS

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That is so scorched that it looks like it went to the Sun and back. :lol:
 

fausto

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Did the capsule have its life support system active during test flight. ?
 

Nicholas Kang

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Did the capsule have its life support system active during test flight. ?

Unfortunately, I couldn't obtain any information regarding this. But I suppose they should be able to get basic in-capsule physical parameters like temperature, ambient pressure etc.

They did confirm that they conducted several experiments. One notable one was a 3D printing done in-orbit for the first time, unattended and was carried out in full automation.

This is all that was said in the official press release:

The experimental spaceship flew in orbit for two days and 19 hours, during which it carried out a series of space science and technology experiments, including space 3D printing, said CMSA.

It also tested key technologies including the heat shielding and control during its re-entry into the atmosphere, as well as multi-parachute recovery and partial reuse, CMSA said.

Article: China tests 3D printing in space for first time, Return capsule of China's experimental manned spaceship comes back successfully

From Chinese forum 9ifly.cn, there are 7 key technologies to be tested in this test flight:

1. The use of the non-toxic HAN (Hydroxylammonium Nitrate) as a green propellant for for capsule. (It's worth nothing that HAN technology is classified under ITAR in the US.*)

2. The use of a large volume, high surface tension rocket fuselage composed of aluminium alloy and composite materials to make the rocket more "agile".

3. More holistic integrated electronic systems to increase efficiency of the flight process.

4. More intelligent automatic in-orbit control of the spacecraft. This is critical for in-orbit maneuver of the spacecraft.

5. For the reentry phase, this mission marks the first time a new heat-resistant structure and material is being utilized. The weight of the material is 30% less compared to previous flights, yet it has to achieve the same level of heat resistivity. Also, to enhance reusability, this heat-resistant structure is removable and replaceable.

6. This mission marks the first use of aerodynamic deceleration and pneumatic shock-absorber for the landing phase (similar to Soyuz).

7. A tailor-made in-orbit data extraction system allows for further study and improvement of the capsule. Various sensors obtain data from all phases of the mission. In particular given the maiden launch of this capsule, the most important data to the engineers would be the behavior of the spacecraft during separation from rocket in-orbit and the various aerodynamic and thermodynamic parameters of the capsule during reentry and landing phases.

Here's a video on the recovery operation conducted. The capsule will be brought to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center for inspection.



*Italics are my own addition.
 

cannon_gray

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China can be conditionally considered the leader of the new "moon race". It has become the first country to deliver lunar soil samples to Earth over the past four decades.
 
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