The third unmanned test of the Shenzhou spacecraft was delayed almost three months when a defective connector was found on the booster after roll-out to the pad in January 2002. The vehicle was disassembled, and all suspect connectors were replaced. The stand-down also revealed ten previously undetected defects in the space capsule. The spacecraft, the first all-up flight model with a functioning (but deactivated) launch escape system, was finally launched and placed into an initial 197 x 326 km x 42.4 deg orbit at 1425 UTC. At about 2120 UTC Shenzhou used its own engine to raise its orbit to 332 x 337 km. The capsule included a dummy astronaut instrumented to monitor life support systems. The descent module returned to Earth on April 1 at 0851 UTC, landing in Inner Mongolia. The orbital module remained in orbit to carry out further experiments, finally being deorbited on 12 November 2002. The spacecraft carried 44 scientific payloads, including a medium-resolution imaging radiometer developed by Chinese Academy of Sciences, installed on the instrument pallet atop the orbital module.
Final unmanned test of the Shenzhou spacecraft. First night launch of the CZ-2F was viewed by Party leaders on a very cold but clear night. The spacecraft carried fifty-two science payloads in four main areas: microwave Earth observation, space environment monitoring, microgravity fluid physics, and biological technology research. The spacecraft's reentry capsule was successfully recovered on 5 January 2003 at 1116 UT. The Chinese released the news and photographs of the capsule in the dusk snow only an hour later. The landing site was 40 km from Hohhot (40.51deg N, 111.38 deg E). As in prior missions, the orbital module continued in orbit. Chinese astronauts trained on the actual flight hardware before the launch and it was officially announced that this successful mission set the stage for a first Chinese manned spaceflight in the second half of 2003. Western observors noted that the orbit and ground track allowed launch of a second rendezvous vehicle, an indication of future manned space station missions. Shenzhou 4 carried 52 scientific payloads including a microwave radiometer using a reflector antenna, installed on top of the orbital module.
Chuangxin-1 (or Innovation-1) was China's first experimental small satellite for store-and-forward short message data communications in low Earth orbit. With a mass less than 100 kg, the Chuangxin-1 was developed in light of national strategic demands. Starting from 1999 with support of the national Knowledge Innovation Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the project was carried out jointly by researchers from the CAS Shanghai Institute of Microsystem Information Technology and the CAS Shanghai Institute of Technical Physics. The satellite used spread spectrum communication and subsystems included a communication transponder, onboard computer, attitude control, energy source, thermal control, and structure. The mission was to demonstrate data communications for such sectors as traffic and transportation, environment protection, oil and gas transportation, flood and drought control, detection of forest fire and earthquake monitoring.