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Chinese manned spacecraft. The Chinese Shenzhou manned spacecraft resembled the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, but was of larger size and all-new construction.

AKA: Project 921-1. Status: Operational 1999. First Launch: 1999-11-19. Last Launch: 2013-06-11. Number: 10 . Thrust: 10.00 kN (2,248 lbf). Gross mass: 7,840 kg (17,280 lb). Unfuelled mass: 6,840 kg (15,070 lb). Specific impulse: 290 s. Height: 9.25 m (30.34 ft). Diameter: 2.52 m (8.26 ft). Span: 17.00 m (55.00 ft).

Like the Soyuz, it consisted of a forward orbital module, a re-entry capsule, and an aft service module. Unlike the Soyuz, the orbital module was equipped with its own propulsion, solar power, and control systems, allowing autonomous flight. Shenzhou would be used to develop manned spaceflight techniques (extravehicular activity, rendezvous and docking) and later serve as a ferry to Chinese space stations. Like Soyuz, derivatives could be used as a lunar orbital and landing spacecraft.

The Shenzhou project received limited funding, resulting in a protracted development program. Work began in 1992, with annual unmanned flights finally beginning in the winter of 1999/2000. The development of Shenzhou's thirteen sub-systems took the effort of thousands of engineers and technicians in 300 organizations in China. The first manned flight came in the autumn of 2003.

The Development of the Shenzhou

The Chinese perfected ballistic re-entry vehicle techniques very early in their space program. The abortive Shuguang-1 project to launch a Chinese man into space was cancelled for political reasons in 1972. The FSW unmanned reconnaissance satellite began a series of successful recoveries in 1976.

Nevertheless low-key development work on manned spaceflight continued. In 1978 photos were released showing Chinese astronauts in impressive space suits being trained in altitude chambers and at the controls of an elaborate space shuttle-like cockpit. A fleet of ships for recovery of capsules at sea was built. In May 1980, a ballistic missile re-entry vehicle was recovered from the South Pacific after a sub-orbital launch. But in December 1980 Wang Zhuanshan, the Secretary General of the New China Space Research Society and Chief Engineer of the Space Centre of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, announced that Chinese manned flight was being postponed because of its cost.

After a ten-year hiatus, China began preliminary work on manned spaceflight again in July 1985. The decision came against a background of vigorous international space activity. The United States had its Strategic Defense Initiative and Space Station Freedom. The Soviet Union had its Buran shuttle system, Mir and Mir-2 space stations, and its own star wars program. Europe was developing the Hermes manned spaceplane, and Japan the Hope winged spacecraft. Even India and China were taking on ambitious space projects. It seemed China would have to take action to remain a world power.

Ren Xin Min, the leading Chinese rocket expert of the time, believed that China should make a space station its national goal. This would develop all aspects of space technology, including modern launch vehicle capabilities. In early spring 1986, members of a standing committee of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (Wang Da Hang, Wang Ganchang, Yang Jiachi, Chen Fangyun) proposed a family of seven Project 863 plans to accelerate Chinese technical development. These numbered plans covered biology, astronautics, information technology, military technology, automation, energy, and materials science. Astronautics plan 863-2 included a section 863-204 space transportation system, which would service a section 863-205 space station. It was estimated that two years would be needed for concept studies.

An expert group was established for the 863-204 shuttle, and issued a tender call to Chinese industry within two months of starting work. Sixty days later 11 alternate proposals were delivered, of which six were selected for feasibility studies. These were delivered in June 1988. The proposals ran the gamut from highly advanced two-stage-to-orbit reusable space shuttles to modest ballistic capsule designs. The latter proposal was from Department 508 of the Fifth Academy (now the Chinese Academy of Space Technology, CAST). They proposed a manned space capsule, recovered by parachute, similar to the Soviet Soyuz spacecraft. Department 508 argued that the Chinese industrial and technical base was not realistically up to developing winged reusable spacecraft, and that this would take a very long time and would not be flying until well into the 21st Century. A capsule should be developed in any case as a lifeboat for the space station, and would provide a Chinese manned space capability by the year 2000 - and until a winged spacecraft was available.

17 experts met in Harbin during 20-31 July, 1988, to make final assessments and recommend a course of action. It finally concluded that development of a winged reusable space shuttle system was acceptable as a national long-term goal to guide technology development. But China did not have the aerodynamic or rocket technology to develop a hypersonic aircraft with reusable rocket engines. The two designs that were considered technically achievable ranked very close in the expert's rating system - the Tian Jao 1 manned spaceplane with a score of 83.69, and the Department 508 manned space capsule with a score of 84.00.

The space capsule advocates pointed out that the development cost would be relatively modest, since China already had the boosters to launch it, and had proven ballistic capsule re-entry and recovery technology. They repeated that such a capsule would in any case be needed as a lifeboat for a Chinese station, and that the capsule would be safer and more reliable than a spaceplane design. The Chinese aeronautical industry in fact did not have the existing technical base to build a true supersonic cruise aircraft, let alone a hypersonic aircraft.

The spaceplane advocates pointed out that the space capsule approach did little to advance the Project 863 objectives of leapfrogging Chinese technology to a world-class 21st Century level. Indeed China might even invite international contempt by flying a 1960's-type design.

The final 863-204 Expert Commission report in July 1989 advocated building the manned capsule, with a first flight date of 2000. This would satisfy the leadership's desire for an early Chinese manned space capability, and establish the essential earthly infrastructure and spacecraft subsystems technology for more advanced systems. However in parallel development of technology for a two-stage-two-orbit horizontal takeoff and landing reusable space shuttle would be pursued, with a first flight date of 2015.

The report failed to impress the government. Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping rejected both plans, saying that neither could be flying in his lifetime. The Chinese space establishment went back to the drawing board.

Deng stepped down as Chairman of the Central Military Commission in 1989. In his absence the Chinese military decided it could safely lend its critical support to a manned space program. In January 1991 the Air Ministry established a manned space program office with Liu Jiyuan as its head. After that things moved quickly. On 15 March 1991 Project 863 leader Ren Xin Min was called to a meeting with Premier Li Peng. Ren Xin Min presented a more modest manned space development plan, using the existing Long March CZ-2E booster to launch a manned ballistic capsule into orbit. There was no longer any mention of development of hypersonic reusable winged space shuttles. Li Peng was especially gratified to see the funds previously spent on the Long March rocket being put to good use, and work on the project began in earnest.

During the course of 1991 three proposals were made for a spacecraft designed within the 8-metric ton payload capability of the CZ-2E:

Ren Xin Min brought 10% scale models of the proposed designs to a final evaluation board on 8 January 1992. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the decision was taken to proceed with Ren Xin Min's three-module/autonomous orbital module concept. On 1 August 1992 Li Peng attended the final meeting of the board and where the following program plan was presented:

The final plan was approved on 21 September 1992, and Project 921 to create a Chinese manned space capability began in earnest. Wang Yongzhi was made responsible for overall project management. At CAST, Qi Faren was responsible for the spacecraft itself. The design of the service module was assigned to SAST under Qi Faren's direction. CALT was to design the CZ-2F man-rated modification of the CZ-2F.

Wang Yongzhi was responsible for much more than just the development of a new spacecraft and modified booster. Implementing the program required modernization of the Chinese technology base and infrastructure, and this was in fact its main purpose. A complete new technology vertical assembly building, mobile launch vehicle transporter, and launch pads had to be built in Jiuquan (Xu Kejun chief designer). An integrated approach to recovery of the manned spacecraft, including land, sea, and air vehicles, was developed by Zhao Jun for use in the primary landing zones at Siziwangqi and Alashanyouqi in Inner Mongolia. A new unified S-band spacecraft tracking and control network was developed under the leadership of Yu Zhijian. This included new tracking sites outside of Chinese territory, a new tracking ship, the upgrade of existing tracking stations and ships, and a new flight control center in the north-east suburbs of Beijing. Astronaut training and crew technology was non-existent in China, and this capacity was developed by Shu Shuangning at the Aerospace Medical Engineering Research Institute. Of the total $2.3 billion program cost through the first manned flight, $ 1.0 billion went to infrastructure.

A rearguard action was fought to try to include new booster development. In October 1993 the Shanghai Astronautics Bureau proposed development of six large carrier rockets and eight new spacecraft, including a manned one, for inclusion in the Eight and Ninth Five Year Economic Plans. But this was not approved. Shanghai's program for development of a new generation of liquid oxygen / kerosene rockets was shelved, and those resources were instead put into the development of large solid motors for military use.

Russian assistance to the program began as early as May 1991, when Russian lecturers briefed the Chinese engineers on the capabilities and potential of their Soyuz spacecraft. This was followed by two-year fellowships for 20 young Chinese engineers in Russia during 1992-1994. In September 1994 Chinese President Jiang Zemin visited the Russian Flight Control Centre in Kaliningrad and noted that there were broad prospects for co-operation between the two countries in space. In March 1995 a deal was signed to transfer manned spacecraft technology to China. Included in the agreement were training of cosmonauts, provision of Soyuz spacecraft capsules and life support systems, androgynous docking systems, and space suits. In 1996 two Chinese astronauts, Wu Jie and Li Qinglong, began training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre in Russia. After graduation these men returned to China and began selection of a cadre of 12 Chinese astronauts.

Design was completed in August 1995 and construction began of four ground-test prototypes of the spacecraft - two structural test versions, one thermal test model, and an electrical test vehicle. Many difficulties were encountered. The Chinese had been quoted what they considered exorbitant prices to acquire key Russian technology, and in those cases they had to develop their own solutions. Even the decision to use an enlarged aerodynamic copy of the Soyuz capsule did not mean extensive development testing was not required. Characterizing the heat shield performance of the capsule, particularly around the critical porthole areas, required testing at TsNIIMASH facilities in Russia in the summers of 1995, 1998, and 1999. Welding and sealing of the re-entry vehicles frame encountered numerous difficulties, as did SAST's qualification testing of the propulsion systems and service module. Tests of the launch escape system in April and August 1995 were failures, and first succeeded only in April 1997. But the successful design was 900 kg overweight, and a weight reduction program was necessary. In May 1998 a mock-up of the CZ-2F launch vehicle and Shenzhou spacecraft were rolled out for facilities tests. The first completely successful test of a production-weight launch escape system was finally accomplished on 18 October 1998.

In June 1999, coincident with public announcements that the first unmanned test of the spacecraft would be made in October, photographs of the CZ-2F launcher with a Soyuz-style shroud appeared mysteriously on the Internet. They were said to have been scanned from a brochure of an Inner-Mongolian construction company that had worked on the launch facilities. The shroud was consistent in shape and size with that portrayed in the 1992 drawing of the cancelled Shanghai lox/kerosene launch vehicle. It had many similarities with Russian Soyuz shrouds, but comparison with photos of Soyuz shrouds to the same scale showed it to be much larger.

In July, completion of the fourth Yuan Wang tracking ship was announced, ready for deployment with its three sister ships in October. Then in early August rumors spread in the Far Eastern press of a propellant explosion in Jiuquan that involved manned spaceflight hardware. This was denied by Chinese officials a few days later, but suddenly the predicted date for the first unmanned launch of the Shenzhou changed from October to 'sometime in 1999'. In fact the program was encountering serious delays, and the only way to make the deadline of the first unmanned launch by the end of 1999 was to take the ground electrical test model of the spacecraft and fly that in space. So the first Shenzhou would have functioning service module and re-entry vehicle, but the orbital module would be a nearly inert mock-up.

Meanwhile Russo-Chinese co-operation continued. In August 1999 at Star City, in a large room on the second floor of the Hydrolab, 15-20 Chinese staff continued work. Their activities seemed to be associated with flying experiments on the Russian zero-G aircraft and not EVA training. The Russian Air Force personnel that run the Hydrolab were also responsible for the aircraft

The experiments being flown originated from Mr. Qin Yi of the Oriental Scientific Instruments I&E Group. The project was administered at Star City by Mr. Yuri L. Bogoroditsky, Chief of Foreign Economic Development, Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre.

The possibility of an imminent launch was signaled by the departure of the four Yuan Wang tracking ships from their home port. Three of the ships were stationed in the southern hemisphere near latitude 35 S: one off the coast of Namibia, one off the south-west coast of Australia, and one in the mid-Pacific on the International Dateline. The fourth ship was off the southern coast of Japan (for tracking the end of the launch phase and recovery of the capsule in the case of an abort). Land-based tracking sites were located at the Jiuquan launch site, West China, South Africa, and Pakistan.

The unmanned first test flight of a prototype of the Chinese Project 921-1 spacecraft took place 49 days after the planned date of October 1, 1999. Chinese President Jiang Zemin personally named the spacecraft 'Shenzhou' (variously translated as 'Vessel of the Gods', 'Divine Craft', 'Divine Mechanism'; but also a play on a name for China). Film released of the flight verified the existence of the new man-rated CZ-2F launch vehicle, its vertical assembly building, and showed the true configuration of the spacecraft for the first time.

Despite rumors at several points during the following year, the next unmanned test did not occur until January 2001. The second flight carried a monkey, a dog and a rabbit in a test of the spaceship's life support systems. Shenzhou 2 demonstrated multiple restarts of its propulsion system and made three orbit-raising maneuvers during its flight. After seven days in orbit, the descent module and service modules separated from the forward orbital module. After retrofire by the service module, the descent module separated and landed in Inner Mongolia. Lack of post-recovery photographs led to speculation that the recovery may have been unsuccessful. Again the orbital module continued in controlled orbital flight, conducting zero-gravity experiments.

The second Shenzhou saved 100 kg in mass using a new wire harness mounting technique. Training of the Chinese astronauts was reported to be proceeding with commissioning of a unique form of zero gravity trainer. The consisted of a chamber, 15 m in diameter and 21 m high, installed in a vertical wind tunnel. Wind speeds of up to 150 km/hour levitated the astronaut trainees.

Shenzhou 3 was launched in March 2002 and the program pace began to pick up. This was the first launch with a live launch escape system. Shenzhou 4, launched in December 2002, was the final dress rehearsal for a manned launch. Even the crew for the first manned flight were placed in the capsule, and went through all procedures up to a certain point in the countdown. They then left the capsule, and the mission proceeded unmanned. All systems checked out perfectly, and China was poised for its first attempt at a manned flight in October 2003. And what was the cost of all this? In 2003 the president of the company that builds the Shenzhou capsules, Zhang Qingwei, told a Chinese newspaper that Beijing had spent about $2.3 billion on its manned space program in recent years.

Description of Shenzhou

The spacecraft strongly resembled the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, and like the Soyuz, consisted of a forward orbital module, a re-entry capsule, and an aft service module. The configuration was very much like the original Soyuz A design of 1962 (itself, in turn, alleged to be very similar to the US General Electric Apollo proposal of the same period). Horizon sensors were located at the middle bottom of the service module, as on the Soyuz spacecraft. Two pairs of solar panels on the service and orbital modules had a total area of 36.72 square meters, with a maximum power output of 3.5 kW, and an average electrical power of over 1.45 kW (nearly three times that of Soyuz and about that of the original Mir base module). Unlike the Soyuz, the orbital module was equipped with its own propulsion, solar power, and control systems, allowing autonomous flight. The orbital modules could be left behind as autonomous space laboratories. A stretched version would provide an 8-metric ton space laboratory for use in Project 921 Phase 2. In Phase 3 of Project 921 the modules could be left attached to the 20-metric ton space station as additional station modules. The basic spacecraft was capable of manned missions of up to 20 days, with autonomous missions of the orbital module of up to a year. Within the cabin of the spacecraft, maximum noise level was 125 dB during launch and re-entry, and 75 dB during in-orbit operation. Maximum G forces were 4 G's during normal lifting re-entry, 11G's during an uncontrolled ballistic re-entry, and 17 G's in an emergency abort.

Detailed descriptions of each of Shenzhou's three modules are provided below.

The dimensions of the Shenzhou's modules have been officially announced. An estimate of the mass breakdown of the Shenzhou, in comparison with the Soyuz, would be as follows:

                             Soyuz   Shenzhou
Complete Spacecraft:    
Total Mass-kg                7,250      7,840
Length-m                      7.48       9.25
Diameter-m                    2.72       2.80
Span-m                       10.06      17.00
Service Module    
Total Mass- kg               2,950     3,000 
-of which, propellant,kg       900     1,000 
Length-m                      2.60      2.94 
Diameter-m                    2.17      2.50 
Diameter base-m               2.72      2.80 
Re-entry Vehicle    
Total Mass-kg                3,000     3,240 
Length-m                      1.90      2.06 
Diameter-m                    2.17      2.52 
Orbital Module    
Total Mass-kg                1,300     1,500 
Length-m                      2.98      2.80
Diameter-m                    2.26      2.25

Launch Escape System

The escape tower would fire to pull the Shenzhou capsule and orbital module away from the booster in the event of a major booster malfunction from 15 minutes before launch to the point of payload fairing jettison at T+160 seconds. The system consisted of the escape tower, the upper portion of the payload fairing, and the orbital and descent modules. This complete assembly had a total mass of 11,260 kg, and was 15.1 m long and 3.8 m in diameter. The system was designed for a reliability of 0.995. The tower itself was 8.35 m long and equipped with six solid propellant motors. These consisted of four axial vernier motors, a low altitude separation motor with eight nozzles, and a medium altitude escape motor with four nozzles. In the upper shroud were four motors used for escape at high altitude, and two motors used for shroud separation. Four grid-like aerodynamic flaps on the upper shroud stabilized the assembly during an abort.

When the fault monitoring management system on CZ-2F booster sensed an emergency situation, it automatically activated the launch escape system. Ground controllers could also activate the system by command if deemed necessary. On manned flights the astronauts could manually activate the system from within the capsule. There were three escape modes:

From launch to 39 km attitude, at T+120 seconds: The upper shroud, together with the orbital module and re-entry vehicle of the spacecraft, would be pulled away from the lower shroud, service module, and failing booster by the escape tower. The low- or medium-altitude escape motors of the escape tower would be used as appropriate to the flight regime.

From T+120 seconds to T+160 seconds, after separation of the escape tower, the high altitude escape mode would be used. This used solid propellant motors in the upper shroud to pull the orbital module and re-entry vehicle away from the booster.

After T+160 seconds, and jettison of the spacecraft shroud, an abort would consist simply of booster shutdown, separation of the re-entry vehicle, and an emergency re-entry leading to a recovery either on Chinese territory or off the southern coast of Japan.

Shenzhou consists of the following modules:

Overall Spacecraft Characteristics:

Crew Size: 3. Habitable Volume: 14.00 m3. RCS Coarse No x Thrust: 16 x 150 N. RCS Fine No x Thrust: 32 x 5 N. Spacecraft delta v: 380 m/s (1,240 ft/sec). Electric System: 3.50 kWh. Electric System: 1.45 average kW.


Shenzhou - Divine Military Vessel As the first Chinese astronauts rocket into orbit, their main concern will be completion of an ambitious programme of military experiments.

Shenzhou 6 FAQ! Quick facts on the Shenzhou 6 mission.

Shenzhou: Countdown to the Launch of Shenzhou-5 Log of events and links to information on China's first manned spaceflight

Shenzhou-5 - Quick Facts Trivia and quick facts about the Shenzhou manned spacecraft

Shenzhou 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 (SZ 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7) Null

Shenzhou SM Chinese manned spacecraft module. Operational, first launch 1999.11.19. The service module, developed by the Shanghai Academy of Space Technology, provides the electrical power, attitude, control and propulsion for the spacecraft in orbit.

Shenzhou RV Chinese manned spacecraft module. Operational, first launch 1999.11.19. The re-entry vehicle was conceptually based on the Soyuz, but was not a copy.

Shenzhou OM Chinese manned spacecraft module. The orbital module provided quarters for the crew during the space mission, and could be fitted out with different internal and external equipment according to mission requirements.

Shenzhou 5 First Chinese man in space. Highly conservative mission. Single astronaut stayed in the re-entry capsule for the entire 21-hour mission, and did not enter the orbital module.

Shenzhou 6 China's second manned mission took two astronauts into space for nearly five days, and featured use by a crew of the Shenzhou orbital module for the first time.

Shenzhou 7 First Chinese EVA. First Chinese three-crew spaceflight. Third Chinese manned space mission. The Shenzhou was flown with the full complement of three crew and astronaut Zhai conducted China's first spacewalk.

Chinese Space Station In 2009-2011 Chinese authorities announced firm plans to assemble a 60 metric ton, three-module space station by 2020. This replaced earlier plans for a 20 metric-ton single-module laboratory.

Tiangong Chinese man-tended space laboratory. A series of three of these laboratories were to visited by a series of Shenzhou manned spacecraft between 2011 and 2018. The 8.6-ton design was also the basis for the 13-ton cargo carrier for resupply of both Tiangong and the Chinese multi-module space station after 2020.

Tiangong 1 (TG 1) Null

Shenzhou 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 (SZ 8, 9, 10, 11, 12) Null

Shenzhou 9 First Chinese EVA. Fourth Chinese manned space mission. First Chinese space station mission. First Chinese woman in space. The Shenzhou was flown with the full complement of three crew and docked with the Tiangong space station.

Shenzhou 10 Docked with Tiangong-1 spacelab on 13 June at 05:11 GMT. Undocked and performed a manual redocking on 23 June. Undocked on 25 June at 21:07 GMT and landed in Inner Mongolia on 26 June at 00:07 GMT.

Shenzhou Circumlunar Chinese manned lunar flyby spacecraft. In January and February 2003 Chinese sources began discussing plans for a Chinese manned circumlunar mission by 2008. Nothing came of these plans.

Tiangong 2 (TG 2) Null

Shenzhou 11 Shenzhou 11 docked two days after launch, at 19:24 GMT on October 18, with the Tiangong-2 orbital laboratory to begin a month-long mission. The astronauts completed work on November 17 and undocked in Shenzhou-11 at 04:41 GMT. Shenzhou 11 landed near Zhurihezen in Inner Mongolia province at 05:59 GMT.

Tianzhou Chinese space station cargo resupply ship. Designed to resupply the large multi-module Chinese space station, it began operations with the Tiangong space laboratory in 2017, years in advance of the assembly of the larger space laboratory.

Tianzhou 1, 2 (TZ 1, 2) Null

Shenzhou Flight History Shenzhou Flight History

Shenzhou Upcoming Flights Shenzhou Upcoming Flights

Family: Chinese Manned Spacecraft, Manned spacecraft, New Generation Crewed. Country: China. Spacecraft: Shenzhou SM, Shenzhou RV, Shenzhou OM. Flights: Shenzhou 5, Shenzhou 6, Shenzhou 7. Launch Vehicles: Chang Zheng 2F. Propellants: N2O4/MMH. Launch Sites: Jiuquan, Jiuquan SLS. Agency: CAST, CASC. Bibliography: 110, 1791, 2, 286, 296, 424, 425, 434, 460, 530, 552, 554, 6870, 13087, 13088.
Photo Gallery

Shenzhou OMShenzhou OM
The configuration of the Shenzhou orbital module, Shenzhou 1 to 8.
Credit: Source images: Chinese Society of Astronautics


Cutaway view of orbital module

Shenzhou ModelShenzhou Model
View of a 1/40 scale module of Shenzhou at the Chinese Astronautical Technology Research Group. Excluding the triangular sections, the lower solar panels of the service module measure 2.0 m x 7.5 m. Those of the orbital module are 2.0 m x 3.4 m. This indicates that the complete spacecraft can generate three times more power than Soyuz, providing an average of over 1.5 kW of electricity. In autonomous flight the orbital module would generate over 0.5 kW average.
Credit: Steven S. Pietrobon

Shenzhou Model FwdShenzhou Model Fwd
Forward view of Shenzhou model. Notice the unique configuration of the instrument pallet at the forward end; the arrangement of the reaction control thrusters at the base of the orbital module, which allow autonomous orientation and possibly manoeuvre of the module in orbit; and the rectangular package mounted opposite the entry hatch. The service module measures 2.2 m diameter x 2.8 m long. The complex equipment arranged at the top of the module is 0.95 m x 1.3 m and 0.8 m long. The semi-circular ring has a 1.1 m inner diameter and seems to provide mounting for rectangular instruments or processing samples around its exterior. The three perpendicular 0.4 m extendible probes are of uncertain purpose. They may be instrument booms; a part of the orientation system; or part of a docking system. Extendible booms were explored by the United States as a docking device for the Apollo spacecraft. It was expected that Shenzhou would have a Russian-style androgynous docking system at the forward end of the orbital module. It may be that the current model instead provides an external instrument pallet for experiments, which could be replaced on eventual station ferry missions with a docking system.
Credit: Steven S. Pietrobon

Shenzhou Model Bot'mShenzhou Model Bot'm
View of the 'bottom' of the Shenzhou model. Noteworthy, from left to right: probable orientation instruments (horizon, ion flow and/or stellar/sun sensors) at the middle of the service module; the robust pylons supporting the moveable solar panels; the thruster groups at the centre of gravity of the spacecraft, below the re-entry capsule, which would be used for rolling the spacecraft and for horizontal / vertical translation manoeuvres; the blue patch on the re-entry module (meaning unclear); the four groups of four thrusters at the base of the orbital module, which would provide auxiliary propulsion for the spacecraft and autonomous propulsion for the orbital module after separation; the white patch on the orbital module, indicating the entry hatch location; the forward porthole in the orbital module. The re-entry capsule is 2.4 m in diameter at the base, and, 2.0 m long (excluding the heat shield). This compares to 2.17 m diameter x 1.90 m for the Soyuz capsule.
Credit: Steven S. Pietrobon

Shenzhou Model AftShenzhou Model Aft
Unique view of the aft end of Shenzhou. The main propulsion system consists of four large expansion ratio main engines. Four groups of two large pitch / yaw thrusters are spaced around the inside of the flared service module skirt, with complementary groups of smaller thrusters mounted on the exterior of the skirt. The radiator loops of the service module wind around the module seven times (the same number as the early Soyuz 7K-OK design). The service module is 2.8 m in diameter at the flared base, 2.5 m in diameter over the radiator section, 2.4 m in diameter at the top, and 3.05 m in length (excluding the engines). This compares to 2.72 m base diameter, 2.15 m centre diameter, and 2.60 m length for the Soyuz.
Credit: Steven S. Pietrobon

Shenzhou Model Left Shenzhou Model Left
View of the left side of Shenzhou. The re-entry capsule has the same aerodynamic surfaces on the upper part of the capsule, and the same cylindrical housing at the bottom as Soyuz. The capsule clearly took advantage of thirty years of Russian experience and refinement of the Soyuz capsule aerodynamic design. The purpose of the tan probe next to the rectangular housing at the top of the orbital module is not known. The arrangement of instruments arranged in an arc in the semicircular pallet mounted on the front of the orbital module is quite mysterious.
Credit: Steven S. Pietrobon

Shenzhou Model RightShenzhou Model Right
View of the right side of Shenzhou. The meaning of the second blue patch on the re-entry capsule is unknown. The entry hatch at the top of the orbital module can be seen, and the extendible probes mounted 90 degrees to one another at the forward end of the orbital module.
Credit: Steven S. Pietrobon

Shenzhou Model Top VShenzhou Model Top V
View of the top side of Shenzhou. Note the large rectangular external package on the orbital module and the three extendible probes mounted at the forward end of the orbital module.
Credit: Steven S. Pietrobon

A graphic used by state television during the Shenzhou 6 was supposed to represent the spacecraft, but looks more like the planned space laboratory version.


Shenzhou in orbitShenzhou in orbit
Shenzhou as it would appear in orbit.
Credit: © Simon Zajc

Shenzhou re-entryShenzhou re-entry
Separation of re-entry capsule from service module prior to re-entry. This is the best available picture of the Shenzhou manned spacecraft. From a Chinese animation of the first mission.

Shenzhou CapsuleShenzhou Capsule
Photo of Shenzhou capsule at landing site. This reveals it to be the same size and shape as the Russian Soyuz capsule.
Credit: Via Chen Lan

Shenzou SM Dimensioned Drawing

Shenzhou 2 in OrbitShenzhou 2 in Orbit
Credit: Steven S. Pietrobon

Shenzhou CockpitShenzhou Cockpit
View of cockpit of Shenzhou cockpit transmitted to the ground during the flight. The instruments have a Soyuz-like layout but represent more modern looking aircraft instrumentation.

Shenzou OM Dimensioned Drawing

Shenzhou CloseupShenzhou Closeup
Credit: © Mark Wade

Shenzou Dimensioned Drawing

Shenzhou Orbital ModShenzhou Orbital Mod
Shenzhou orbital module in the shop. Note the fixed solar panels, the large lateral hatch and window, and the forward docking collar. This is much larger than the Russian Soyuz module and it may be intended that they be left behind at the 921-2 space station, forming additional modules.
Credit: Via Simon Zajc

Shenzhou capsule under is parachute.

Shenzhou DetailsShenzhou Details
Credit: © Mark Wade

Shenzou DM Dimensioned Drawing

Frame from Chinese animation of Shenzhou in flight. The orbital module is separating prior to the retrofire manoeuvre.

SZ Escape TowerSZ Escape Tower
Detail of Shenzhou escape tower.


Shenzhou OMShenzhou OM
Shenzhou OM in independent flight.

Shenzhou 5 Camera PaShenzhou 5 Camera Pa


2 View of Shenzhou spacecraft.

Shenzou-4 OMShenzou-4 OM

Shenzhou-3 landingShenzhou-3 landing

Shenzhou-5 assemblyShenzhou-5 assembly

Shenzhou-3 landingShenzhou-3 landing

Shenzhou eartShenzhou eart

Shenzou-4 OM separatShenzou-4 OM separat

Shenzhou-4 LandingShenzhou-4 Landing

Shenzhou with ELINT booms deployed.
Credit: © Mark Wade

Shenzhou, name of first Chinese manned spacecraft, as named by President Zemin.

Shenzhou VzorShenzhou Vzor

Shenzhou retrofireShenzhou retrofire
Chinese animation of Shenzhou retrofire. The orbital module has already been jettisoned.

Shenzhou 2Shenzhou 2
Credit: © Simon Zajc

Peking Control CentePeking Control Cente
New Beijing Aerospace Directing and Controlling Center during first flight of Shenzhou. Note positioning of tracking ships in southern hemisphere. Retrofire over East Africa would lead to recovery in Inner Mongolia.

In-orbit view of Shenzhou spacecraft

Shenzhou 2Shenzhou 2
Credit: © Simon Zajc

CZ-2F ShroudCZ-2F Shroud
Close-up of CZ-2F shroud during first mission.

CZ-2F installed on launch pad.

CZ-2F LiftoffCZ-2F Liftoff
Lift-off of first CZ-2F.

Shenzhou 3Shenzhou 3
Credit: Manufacturer Image

Shenzhou 8Shenzhou 8
Credit: Manufacturer Image

Chinese spacesuitChinese spacesuit
Chinese spacesuit in test, October 1999

CZ-2F Rollout BigCZ-2F Rollout Big

CZ-2F on pad FullCZ-2F on pad Full

Detail of 921 ShroudDetail of 921 Shroud

Shenzhou 2Shenzhou 2
Credit: © Simon Zajc

921 Spacecraft921 Spacecraft
Earlier conjectural drawing of Project 921 first Chinese manned spacecraft, based on description of its layout and overall mass.
Credit: © Mark Wade

Chinese Manned LVsChinese Manned LVs
Chinese Launch Vehicles for Manned Projects. From left: Tsien Spaceplane Launcher, 1978; Project 921 Launch Vehicle, 1992; CZ-2F, 1999; CZ-2E(A), 2000. Only the last two were put into full scale development.
Credit: © Mark Wade

Shenzhou 3Shenzhou 3
Shenzhou 3 in the shop.

1992 April - .
1993 During the Year - .
1997 December 1 - .
1998 March 19 - .
1998 April 12 - .
1998 April 21 - .
1999 January 6 - .
1999 January 18 - .
1999 February 12 - .
1999 March 1 - .
1999 March 11 - . LV Family: CZ. Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 2F.
1999 May 1 - . LV Family: CZ. Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 2F.
1999 June 9 - . LV Family: CZ. Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 2F.
1999 July 11 - .
1999 July 16 - .
1999 July 18 - .
1999 November 19 - . 22:30 GMT - . Launch Site: Jiuquan. Launch Complex: Jiuquan SLS. LV Family: CZ. Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 2F.
1999 November 30 - .
2000 January 4 - .
2000 December 13 - .
2001 January 6 - .
2001 January 9 - . 17:00 GMT - . Launch Site: Jiuquan. Launch Complex: Jiuquan SLS. LV Family: CZ. Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 2F.
2001 November 2 - .
2002 March 25 - . 14:15 GMT - . Launch Site: Jiuquan. Launch Complex: Jiuquan SLS. LV Family: CZ. Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 2F.
2002 December 29 - . 16:49 GMT - . Launch Site: Jiuquan. Launch Complex: Jiuquan SLS. LV Family: CZ. Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 2F.
2003 October 15 - . 01:00 GMT - . Launch Site: Jiuquan. Launch Complex: Jiuquan SLS. LV Family: CZ. Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 2F.
2005 October 12 - . 01:00 GMT - . Launch Site: Jiuquan. Launch Complex: Jiuquan SLS. LV Family: CZ. Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 2F.
2005 October 16 - .
2008 September 25 - . 13:10 GMT - . Launch Site: Jiuquan. Launch Complex: Jiuquan SLS. LV Family: CZ. Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 2F.
2011 September 29 - . 13:16 GMT - . Launch Site: Jiuquan. LV Family: CZ. Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 2FT1.
2011 October 31 - . 21:58 GMT - . Launch Site: Jiuquan. Launch Complex: Jiuquan SLS. LV Family: CZ. Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 2F.
2012 June 16 - . 10:37 GMT - . Launch Site: Jiuquan. Launch Complex: Jiuquan SLS. LV Family: CZ. Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 2F.
2013 June 11 - . 09:38 GMT - . Launch Site: Jiuquan. Launch Complex: Jiuquan SLS. LV Family: CZ. Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 2F.
2016 September 15 - . 14:04 GMT - . Launch Site: Jiuquan. LV Family: CZ. Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 2F.
2016 October 16 - . 23:30 GMT - . Launch Site: Jiuquan. Launch Complex: Jiuquan SLS. LV Family: CZ. Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 2F.
2017 April 20 - . 11:41 GMT - . Launch Site: Wenchang. Launch Complex: Wenchang LC201. LV Family: CZ-NGLV. Launch Vehicle: Chang Zheng 7.

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