Capsule of China's experimental manned spaceship returns successfully

K J M Varma

Beijing, May 8 (PTI) The capsule of China's experimental new-generation spaceship successfully landed in a designated site in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on Friday, the country' space agency said, a major step in its ambitions to run a permanent space station and send astronauts to the moon.

China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) said the test was a 'complete success'.

China launched the trial version of the new spaceship without a crew by the country's most powerful carrier rocket Long March-5B from the Wenchang Space Launch Centre in southern China's island province of Hainan on Tuesday.

The experimental spaceship flew in orbit for two days and 19 hours, during which it carried out a series of space science and technology experiments, CMSA said.

It also tested key technologies including the heat shielding and control during its re-entry into the atmosphere, as well as multi-parachute recovery and partial reuse, it said.

The spacecraft entered the return orbit at 12:21 pm after which its return capsule separated with its service capsule at 1:33 pm.

Three parachutes slowed its descent. Before touching down, its six airbags were deployed and inflated to help it land softly, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) said.

At 1:49 pm, the return capsule landed safely. The search team found it in a timely manner and confirmed that the capsule structure was intact, state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

The future missions of the spaceship were expected to be manned missions.

It is an advanced space transport vehicle adapted to multiple tasks. It can be used not only in low-Earth orbit missions to support the construction of China's space station but also for deep-space exploration, such as manned lunar exploration, CMSA said.

Developed by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) under the CASC, the test spaceship is nearly 9 metres tall and about 4.5 metres at its widest point. It weighs more than 20 tonnes.

Different from the three-capsule structure of Shenzhou spacecraft currently in use, the new spacecraft comprises a return capsule, which is the command centre and the living place for astronauts, and a service capsule, which provides power and energy, according to the CAST.

The return capsule is designed to be reusable. Star sensors, computers and other high-value equipment have been moved from the service capsule to the return capsule so that they can be recycled after returning to Earth.

China initiated the manned space programme in 1992. In recent years, it has emerged as a major space power with manned space missions and landing a rover in the dark side of the moon.

It is currently building a space station of its own expected to be ready by 2022 and a mission to Mars. PTI KJV PMS AKJ PMS