After three years of training and planning, China has launched the Shenzhou-7 mission on Thursday, marking an important step in the Chinese space exploration effort. Lift-off occurred at 9:10 am US Eastern from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.
The CZ-2F Chang Zheng-2F (CZ2F-7) launch vehicle carrying Shenzhou-7 has a crew of three taikonauts: Jing Haipeng, Zhai Zhigang and Liu Boming – taking part in a mission of historical significance for China, including their debut EVA.
L2 Resources: Numerous launch vehicle manuals for the Chinese fleet. Orlan Spacesuit Operations document/manual.
**NASASpaceFlight.com coverage of the Chinese Space Program**
Chinese Milestone – Mission Preview:
The three stage CZ-2F Chang Zheng-2F ‘Shenjian’ launch vehicle is the man-rated version of the CZ-2E Chang Zheng-2E launch vehicle.
The main differences between both launch vehicles involves the introduction of more safety systems, and a modified upper stage, with the spacecraft fairing similar in design to the one used for the Soyuz spacecraft, as is the case with the launch escape tower.
This mission will mark another first for China, with the debut EVA for a taikonaut. The spacewalk will be carried out by Zhai Zhigang, wearing the Feitan suite – a version of the Russian Orlan-M. He will be joined by Liu Boming – wearing a Russian Orlan-M – who will assist his companion during the extravehicular activity.
The spacewalk will be 40 minutes in duration and will likely take place on September 26 or 27 – giving time to the crew to prepare for the historical moment and to accommodate to the space environment.
The Shenzhou-7 is a vehicle slightly different from its predecessors. Lacking the solar panels on the orbital module and subsystems used for prolonged flight, the Shenzhou-7 has some news additions according to specialists.
These additions include five gas bottles and the sub satellite on top of the orbital module, two external cameras, handrails, as well as an exposure experimental device to be retrieved by the Zhai Zhigang
Also according to Chan Lan the sub satellite has a weight of 40 kg. With a diameter of 0.40 meters it will be released after the spacewalk – other sources point to the possibility that the small satellite be used to broadcast the spacewalk.
After photographing Shenzhou-7, it will move away to a distance about several kilometres, and will test ‘satellite fleet’ technology with the orbital module in next a few months.
The other main objectives of this mission includes a communications test using the new TL-1 Tian Lian-1 communications satellite, the recovery of material samples during the spacewalk, and the evaluation of the maneuvers between the two spacecrafts.
Three rookie taikonauts make up the crew of Shenzhou-7. Jing Haipen was born Yuncheng in northern China’s Shanxi province. He was chosen to be an astronaut in 1998. Having more than 1200 hours of flying time in several different types of aircraft, Jing Haipen was selected to the backup crews of Shenzhou-6.
Zhai Zhigang was born in Longjiang, Qiqihar, Heilongjiang province on October 10 1966. He became a fighter pilot after been enrolled on the Liberation Army Ait Force Aviation Institute. With more than 950 hours of flying time, he was selected for the astronaut training program in 1996, being selected for the astronaut group in 1998.
Zhai Zhigang was on the final group of three astronauts for the Shenzhou-5 mission and on the final group of six astronauts for the Shenzhou-6 mission. Liu Boming was born in September 1966 and is a native of Yian County in the northeast Heilongjiang. Selected to be an astronaut in 1998 he was on the final training group for Shenzhou-6.
The backup crew for the mission is composed by Chan Quan, Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng.