Featured image: Xinhua
Lift Off Time
|June 5, 2022 – 02:44 UTC | 10:44 BJT|
|China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)|
|China National Space Administration (CNSA)|
|Long March 2F|
|LA-4/SLS-1, Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gobi Desert, China|
|Up to 8,400 kg (18,500 lb)|
Where did the spacecraft go?
|The Tianhe module of the Tiangong Space Station, Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) – 370 km (230 mi), at a 41.0° inclination|
Did they attempt to recover the first stage?
|No, this is not a capability of the Long March 2F|
Where did the first stage land?
|It crashed into the ocean|
Did they attempt to recover the fairings?
|No, this is not a capability of the Long March 2F|
Were these fairings new?
This was the:
|– 9th crewed Chinese spaceflight |
– 9th crewed flight in the Shenzhou program
– 14th flight of a Shenzhou spacecraft
– 17th launch of a Long March 2F rocket
– 61st orbital launch attempt of 2022 (59th successful)
Where to watch
What Does All This Mean?
The China National Space Administration (CNSA) launched the Shenzhou 14 spacecraft atop a Long March 2F rocket, carrying three People’s Liberation Army Astronaut Corps (PLAAC) taikonauts to the first module of the Tiangong Space Station, the Tianhe core cabin module (CCM). This is the third crewed launch to China’s new space station and is expected to last six months.
The spacecraft docked to the Tiangong at 17:42 BJT, around seven hours after launch, and then entered the station around three hours later.
What Is The Shenzhou 14 Mission?
Shenzhou 14 is the third crewed mission to the Tianhe CCM, the first module of the China’s Tiangong Space Station, which is currently under construction in LEO. The CNSA announced the names of the three crew members, commander Chen Dong, and operators Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe, in a press conference the day before liftoff. This mission is scheduled to last six months. The upcoming Shenzhou 15 crew will arrive around 10 days before the Shenzhou 14 crew departs the station, which marks the first time the station will be permanently manned.
A few of the key goals of the mission will be:
- Using the stations robotic arm to dock the Wentian and Mengtian experiment modules once they arrive in July and October respectively.
- To conduct space medicine and physics experiments.
- Science outreach.
This Shenzhou 14 mission follows the launch of the third cargo resupply mission, the Tianzhou 4, on May 9, 2022, which carried ~ 6,000 kg (13,227 lb) of cargo to the Tianhe CCM. The spacecraft delivered supplies for the upcoming crewed mission and propellant to continue autonomously refueling and maintaining the module’s orbital altitude.
Meet The Crew
Commander: Chen Dong
Commander Chen Dong is a fighter pilot and PLAAC taikonaut born on December 12, 1978 in Zhengzhou in the Henan Province of China. Chen earned a masters degree in Engineering from Xi’an Jiaotong University before joining the People’s Liberation Army Air Force in 1997.
He was selected to train in the second group of PLAAC astronauts in 2009. Chen then flew on his first mission, the Shenzhou 11, in 2016. The mission lasted 33 days, which was the longest Chinese manned space mission at the time. After the success of the mission, he was awarded the Spaceflight Merit Medal (Third Class) and the honorary title of “Hero Astronaut” by the Central Military Commission. The Shenzhou 14 is Chen’s second spaceflight.
Operator: Liu Yang
PLAAC taikonaut Liu Yang was born in 1978, in Linzhou in the Hanan Province of China.
In 2012, Liu became the first female Chinese astronaut to go to space as she flew on the Shenzhou 9 mission. The mission launched on June 16, exactly 49 years after the first woman, cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova, went to space. Similarly to Chen, after the Shenzhou 9 flight, Liu was awarded the Spaceflight Merit Medal (Third Class) and the honorary title of “Hero Astronaut”. The Shenzhou 14 is Liu’s second journey to space.
Operator: Cai Xuzhe
PLAAC taikonaut Cai Xuzhe was born in the Hebei province of China in 1976. Cai previously served as a fighter pilot in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force, before being selected for astronaut training in 2010. The Shenzhou 14 mission marks Cai’s debut spaceflight.
The Shenzhou Spacecraft
The Shenzhou spacecraft (meaning “divine vessel”) is largely comparable to the Soyuz in its design and technology; although the Shenzhou is substantially bigger at 9.25 x 2.8 m. The spacecraft’s maiden flight was on November 19, 1999, and it’s first crewed launch was the Shenzhou 5, which launched October 15, 2003, making China the 3rd country to demonstrate human spaceflight capabilities.
The spacecraft has three modules: a forward orbital module, a reentry capsule in the middle, and an aft service module. The orbital module has room to store experiments and equipment, and is a space for in-orbit habitation. The reentry module is the middle section of the spacecraft. This is where the crew sits for lift off and reentry, and is the only part of the vehicle which makes it back to Earth. The service module holds the life support and equipment needed for the Shenzhou to function. The spacecraft also has two sets of solar panels, with a total area of 40 m2 (430 ft²). One pair is found on the service module, and the other on the orbital module.
The Tiangong Space Station
The Tiangong Space Station (meaning “heavenly palace”) is a space station currently under construction in LEO. When complete, the station will be roughly one-fifth the mass of the of the International Space Station. Construction began on April 29, 2021, when the core module, the Tianhe, which is able to accommodate three crew members with a built-in life support system, was launched on a Long March 5B rocket. The construction of the Tiangong is based on China’s two previous prototype space stations, the Tiangong-1 and the Tiangong-2.
The Shenzhou 14 mission is the sixth of 11 launches planned across 2021-2022 to construct the station, which will include 3 module launches, 4 cargo spacecraft, and 4 crewed missions. When complete, the station will be comprised of three modules, though it has the ability to expand to 6, and it is expected to be operational for at least 10 years.
What Is The Long March 2F?
The Long March 2F, also known as the “Shenjian,” meaning “Divine Arrow,” is a Chinese rocket and member of the Long March 2 rocket family. Designed to launch the Shenzhou spacecraft, the Long March 2F is the human-rated, two stage version of the Long March 2E rocket. The 2F is externally similar to the 2E, with main change being the inclusion of a launch escape system. There are also some structural changes which allow the 2F to support the heavier fairing required by the Shenzhou capsule. The 2F is also capable of carrying heavier payloads thanks to the additional boosters on the first stage.
The Long March 2F has 4 boosters, each of which are 15.3 m (50 ft) in length, and each with one YF-20B engine. The YF-20B burns dinitrogen tetroxide (N2O4 ) and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) in a gas generator cycle. The boosters have a burn time of 128 seconds, and a specific impulse (ISP) of 291 s. Collectively the boosters produce 3,256 kN (732,000 lbf) of thrust at lift off.
The first stage of the Long March 2F is 23.7 m (78 ft) in length and 3.4 m (11 ft) in diameter. Just like the boosters, this stage has four YF-20B engines, burning N2O4 and UDMH. This stage has a burn time of 166 seconds, and an ISP of 291 s.
The second stage is powered by a single YF-24B engine module, comprising a YF-22B engine and a YF-23B vernier, which again runs on N2O4 and UDMH. The stage is 13.5 m (44 ft) in length and 3.4 m (11 ft) in diameter, and provides 831 kN (187,000 lbf) of thrust. This stage has an ISP of 289 s, and will burn for approximately 300 seconds.