Shenzhou XVII space mission ready to launch

By Zhao Lei | | Updated: 2023-10-25 09:06
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Tang Hongbo (center), Tang Shengjie (right) and Jiang Xinlin will carry out the Shenzhou XVII spaceflight mission. [Photo provided to]

China's 12th manned spaceflight, the Shenzhou XVII mission, will launch on Thursday morning to transport a three-member crew to the Tiangong space station, according to the China Manned Space Agency.

Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the China Manned Space Agency, said at a news conference on Wednesday morning at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China that the crew members — mission commander Senior Colonel Tang Hongbo, Lieutenant Colonel Tang Shengjie and Lieutenant Colonel Jiang Xinlin — have been scheduled to ride onboard the Shenzhou XVII spaceship to be lifted by a Long March 2F carrier rocket at 11:14 am on Thursday from the oasis-like Jiuquan center in the barren Gobi Desert.

Technicians at the launch center will soon start to inject propellants into the rocket, he said.

"After the Shenzhou XVII spacecraft enters its preset orbital position, it will activate the rapid rendezvous-docking mode and use about six and a half hours to approach and connect with the front port on the Tianhe core module," said the official.

The Shenzhou XVII team will take over the Tiangong station from their peers in the Shenzhou XVI - mission commander Major General Jing Haipeng, Colonel Zhu Yangzhu and Professor Gui Haichao - who arrived on May 30. By now, Jing's crew has stayed in orbit for nearly five months.

The two groups will live together for about four days to perform handover work and then the Shenzhou XVI astronauts will depart and fly back to Earth on Oct 31, according to Lin.

He said the Shenzhou XVII crew is scheduled to stay inside the Tiangong for around six months and return to Earth around April. Their tasks include carrying out scientific experiments and technological demonstrations, conducting spacewalks to install equipment and maintain the massive orbital outpost, checking the space station's operational performance and obtaining relevant data, as well as helping to review ground facilities' support capabilities.

Tang Hongbo is one of the nation's second-generation astronauts. Through this mission, he will become a record holder in Chinese astronauts in terms of the shortest interval between two spaceflights — just two years and one month after he returned from his first space journey in the three-month Shenzhou XII.

Tang Shengjie and Jiang are members of the third group of astronauts and the Shenzhou XVII will be their first time to reach Earth's orbit.

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