·Shenzhou Mission
·Space Policy
·World Programs
Shenzhou V in profile
2003-10-15 14:11

The Shenzhou Five spacecraft to get a rough idea about its functions and technologies.

China launched four unmanned craft in the Shenzhou-series, all between November 1999 and December 2002. The four unmanned flights laid the technological foundations for the next step, to put a man in space on the Shenzhou V.

The Shenzhou V was carried aloft by a Long March 2F rocket. These rockets are workhorses of the Chinese satellite program. The Long March 2F is a stable and reliable system, with a range of fallback and safety devices. If any one of 310 automatic safety checks indicates a problem, the system would shut down and abort the mission.

The Shenzhou V itself has four sections -- an orbital module, a re-entry capsule, and primary and secondary propulsion units. The orbital module also has its own propulsion system, solar power, and control systems, allowing autonomous flight in case of emergency.

The solar panels on the orbital module look like a pair of wings. They supply most of the power needed for the spacecraft to fly when it is in orbit. The solar panels can also be rotated to obtain maximum solar reflection, regardless of the angle the spacecraft has to the sun.

The orbital module and the re-entry capsule can both hold crews. The crew compartment in the re-entry module can hold up to three crew. But only one taikonaut is needed to pilot the Shenzhou V this time.

The re-entry module is the astronaut's home during his stay in space. It's the "living room," and "bedroom" rolled into one. Engineers have built 123 fail safe devices into the Shenzhou V, to cope with every kind of malfunction imaginable. The spacecraft is also equipped with remote monitoring and control, and two-way visual and audio transmission facilities. This allows the taikonaut to stay in contact with ground control, and also give ground control the ability to take over piloting the mission if necessary.

Every component and system on the Shenzhou V has been inspected and tested to ensure the spacecraft functions perfectly. The tests included mechanical, structural, electrical, thermal vacuum, and noise and vibration tests. The interior of the capsule has also been checked for air pressure, humidity, temperature and noise levels to make sure they were within acceptable ranges for the pilot.

A range of safety measure are in place to protect the taikonaut. The seats have been specially designed to minimize discomfort, even during the stress of take-off and re-entry. Should any malfunctions occur once the spacecraft has achieved orbit, then the taikonaut can take over and manually pilot the ship. The re-entry system also enables the craft to return automatically to the designated landing area in case of emergency.

The Shenzhou V weighs almost 8 tonnes (7940kg). And it's almost 9 meters long (8860mm). It has about 700 hardware and over 70 software systems to make it fly, keep it aloft, and bring it home.


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