China Marks 20 Years of Manned Spaceflight with the Successful Launch of Shenzhou-17
Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, China – Celebrating the 20th anniversary of its inaugural manned spaceflight, China successfully launched the Shenzhou-17 spacecraft from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 11:14 am on Thursday.
The spacecraft, propelled by the Long March-2F Y17 carrier rocket, carried taikonauts Tang Hongbo, Tang Shengjie, and Jiang Linxin, heading for the China Space Station (CSS). Approximately 10 minutes post-liftoff, Shenzhou-17 was confirmed to have entered its intended orbit, as reported by the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).
An impressive average age of 39 for the crew onboard sets a new record for China’s manned space missions, underscoring the country’s progressive approach to space exploration.
According to the CMSA, Shenzhou-17 will quickly rendezvous and dock with the Tianhe core module of the CSS approximately 6.5 hours after its launch. This will set the stage for another remarkable event – an in-orbit gathering of six taikonauts, strengthening the China Space Station’s image of a permanently manned outpost.
This collaboration symbolizes a monumental leap in China’s space ambitions, highlighting their focus on sustained space habitation and extensive research.
China’s proud space journey began 20 years ago with the launch of Shenzhou-5. Over the last two decades, China has flawlessly executed 12 manned missions, including the latest Shenzhou-17, maintaining an impeccable success rate.
The Long March 2F rocket, since its debut in 1999, boasts an unmatched record. Through rigorous technological refinements and a commitment to addressing vulnerabilities, the rocket’s reliability quotient now stands at 0.9896, with safety metrics reaching a commendable 0.99996, as revealed by the state-owned China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) to Global Times.
In pursuit of increasing efficiency, the Long March 2F’s launch protocol has now been reduced from 49 days to 35 days, with developers ambitiously targeting a 30-day timeframe soon. The rocket is slated for a minimum of two launches annually, reinforcing its significance in China’s expansive space agenda.
Shenzhou-17, marking the 30th mission since the inception of China’s manned space program in 1992, carries several critical objectives. Notably, the crew is set to spend an estimated six months in space until April 2024, during which they’ll undertake various tasks, including spacewalks and the pioneering extravehicular repair operations on the CSS – a historic first.
Additionally, the Shenzhou-17 has onboard the “Space Protein Molecular Assembly and Application Research” project. This groundbreaking endeavor focuses on advancing human health, comprising samples like insulin and cancer treatment protein complexes. The samples, housed within the Shenzhou spacecraft, were transferred eight hours pre-launch, as informed by Cang Huaixing, a research fellow from the Center for Space Application Engineering and Technology.
China’s unwavering focus on its space program underscores its commitment to pushing the boundaries of human understanding and exploration, ensuring its position as a key player on the global space exploration stage.