Shenzhou 12

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Shenzhou 12
Shenzhou 12 launch (cropped).jpg
Launch of Shenzhou 12 on a Long March 2F rocket
Mission typeChinese Space Station crew transport
OperatorChina CMSA
COSPAR ID2021-053A
SATCAT no.48852
Mission duration90 days (planned)
45 days, 13 hours and 15 minutes (in progress)
Spacecraft properties
SpacecraftShenzhou 12
Spacecraft typeShenzhou
ManufacturerChina Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation
Crew
Crew size3
MembersChina Nie Haisheng
China Liu Boming
China Tang Hongbo
EVAs1
EVA duration6h 46m[1]
Start of mission
Launch date17 June 2021, 01:22:27 UTC[2]
RocketLong March 2F
Launch siteJiuquan, SLS-1
ContractorChina Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology
End of mission
Landing dateSeptember 2021 (planned)[3]
Landing siteInner Mongolia, China
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric orbit
RegimeLow Earth orbit
Inclination41.5°
Docking with the China Space Station
Docking portTianhe forward
Docking date17 June 2021, 07:54[4]
Time docked45 days, 6 hours and 43 minutes (in progress)
Shenzhou 12.png
Shenzhou 12 mission patch
Shenzhou 12 crew press conference.jpg
(L-R) Tang Hongbo, Nie Haisheng and Liu Boming 

Shenzhou 12 (Chinese: 神舟十二号; pinyin: Shénzhōu shí'èr hào, see § Etymology) is a Chinese spaceflight that launched on 17 June 2021.[5] The flight marks the seventh crewed Chinese spaceflight and the seventh crewed flight of the Shenzhou program. The spacecraft carried three members of the People's Liberation Army Astronaut Corps (PLAAC) on the first flight to the Tianhe core module, the first module of the Chinese space station Tiangong.[6]

Background[edit]

Shenzhou 12 was originally planned as the second visiting mission for the experimental Tiangong-2 space station, following Shenzhou 11. In 2016, plans for a second mission to Tiangong-2 were cancelled, and Shenzhou 12 was designated as the first crewed mission to the Tiangong space station which currently consists of one module, the Tianhe module, launched on 29 April 2021.[7] The flight marks the first of four crewed missions scheduled to dock with the Tiangong station by the end of construction in 2022.[6]

Mission[edit]

Diagram of a Shenzhou spacecraft, like the one that flew on Shenzhou 12.

The spacecraft was launched on a Long March-2F rocket in Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China's Gobi Desert on 17 June 2021.[5] After about six-and-a-half hours flight it arrived at Chinese space station Tiangong.[8] The mission docked with the Tianhe core module at 07:54 UTC, 17 June 2021, following the launch and successful docking of Tianzhou 2, the second flight of China's Tianzhou cargo resupply craft. Tianzhou 2 was able to remain docked, because the Tianhe core module has four docking ports, unlike China's two previous space stations which only had one.[9]

The crew entered the Tianhe core module later at 10:48 UTC becoming the first visitors to the Tiangong space station.[2] They will carry out tasks such as the mechanical arm operation and extravehicular activities, and verify a series of key technologies such as long-term residence in space, recycling of resources and life support of astronauts.[10]

Two spacewalks are planned to occur during the crew's approximately three-month stay in orbit.[2] Shenzhou 13 will be in standby for any possible rescue mission.[11]

Spacewalks[edit]

On 4 July 2021, the first of two planned spacewalks was carried out by Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo as they left the module to conduct extravehicular activities testing next-generation space suits, installed equipment to be used on future missions and carried out a number of technical tasks, which took nearly 7 hours according to the CNSA. It marked China's second successful spacewalk since Zhai Zhigang's solo spacewalk nearly 13 years ago during the Shenzhou 7 mission. The duration of the spacewalk was also China's longest to date.[12][13]

Spacecraft[edit]

Shenzhou 12 spacecraft is based heavily on Soyuz MS technology. Shenzhou was approved in 1992 as part of the Chinese space program Project 921, and has a design similar to the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

In the front of the spacecraft, there is the orbital module which contains an androgynous docking ring based on APAS technology, which is used to dock to the Tianhe core module. In the middle is the reentry module containing the crew which is a scaled-up version of the Soyuz descent module. The rear of the spacecraft is the service module which is equipped with engines, fuel tanks, and solar panels.[14]

Crew[edit]

The crew was publicly announced in a press conference on 16 June 2021.[15]

PLASSF Major General Nie Haisheng is a veteran of Shenzhou 6 and Shenzhou 10. Major General Liu Boming was a crew member on Shenzhou 7, while Senior Colonel Tang Hongbo makes his first flight to space. If Shenzhou 12 completes the planned 90-day mission, Nie will have spent about 114 days in space, a new record for a Chinese astronaut.[14]

Position Crew member
Commander China Nie Haisheng, PLAAC
Third spaceflight
Operator 1 China Liu Boming, PLAAC
Second spaceflight
Operator 2 China Tang Hongbo, PLAAC
First spaceflight
Back-up crew
Position Crew member
Commander China Zhai Zhigang, PLAAC
Operator 1 China Wang Yaping, PLAAC
Operator 2 China Ye Guangfu, PLAAC

International participation[edit]

The crew of Shenzhou 12 is the first to reside aboard the Tiangong space station. Russia will later fly its spacecraft and Russian crew to the Chinese station, and the European Space Agency will also send its astronauts to the Chinese station. Similar cooperation could extend to hosting astronauts from some developing countries.[16]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Tiangong: Expedition 1". spacefacts.de. 18 July 2021. Retrieved 28 July 2021.
  2. ^ a b c Clark, Stephen (17 June 2021). "Chinese astronauts enter Tiangong space station for first time". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 17 June 2021.
  3. ^ "长征二号F/G Y12 • 神舟十二号载人飞船 • LongMarch 2F/G Y12 • Shenzhou-12". spaceflightfans.cn (in Chinese). 21 April 2021. Retrieved 25 May 2021.
  4. ^ Becker, Joachim (17 June 2021). "Spaceflight mission report: Shenzhou 12". spacefacts.de. Retrieved 17 June 2021.
  5. ^ a b Garcia, Carlos; Wang, Shubing (17 June 2021). "Chinese astronauts board space station module in historic mission". Reuters. Retrieved 18 June 2021.
  6. ^ a b Barbosa, Rui C. (1 March 2021). "China preparing to build Tiangong station in 2021, complete by 2022". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved 1 March 2021.
  7. ^ "ChinaSpaceFlight". Retrieved 22 May 2021.
  8. ^ Yeung, Jessie; Xiong, Yong (17 June 2021). "China successfully launches mission sending astronauts to new space station". CNN. Retrieved 17 June 2021.
  9. ^ "Long March 7 | Tianzhou 2". Next Spaceflight. 29 May 2021. Retrieved 1 June 2021.
  10. ^ Liu, Zekang, ed. (17 June 2021). "Shenzhou-12 crewed spaceship launch a complete success". China Manned Space Engineering Office. Retrieved 24 June 2021.
  11. ^ Engineers Prepare Backup for Shenzhou-12 to Ensure Astronauts' Safety. CCTV Video News Agency. 18 June 2021. Retrieved 18 June 2021 – via YouTube.
  12. ^ Xie, Echo; Zheng, William (4 July 2021). "Chinese astronauts carry out country's second spacewalk". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  13. ^ Mogul, Rhea (4 July 2021). "Chinese astronauts complete first space walk outside new Tiangong space station". NBC News. Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  14. ^ a b Jones, Andrew (17 June 2021). "Shenzhou-12 docks with Tianhe space station module". Space News. Retrieved 19 June 2021.
  15. ^ "China unveils Shenzhou-12 astronauts for space station construction". Xinhua News Agency. 16 June 2021. Retrieved 17 June 2021.
  16. ^ Davenport, Justin (16 June 2021). "Shenzhou-12 and three crew members successfully launch to new Chinese space station". NASASpaceFlight.com. Retrieved 19 June 2021.

External links[edit]