BEIJING: While Shenzhou-series spacecraft still serve as a major pillar of China’s manned spaceflights, Chinese engineers are developing a next-generation vehicle to help to materialise the country’s future aspirations in space.
Once put into formal service, the new spacecraft will feature world-class designs and technologies, high reliability and flexibility, reusability and multiple functions, according to designers at the China Academy of Space Technology, a major supplier of spacecraft in the nation.
It will be tasked with serving the operation of China’s space station as well as the country’s manned lunar missions that are now in planning.
It will have two major parts – a re-entry module, which will house astronauts and serve as the control centre for the entire craft during a spaceflight, and a service module that will contain power and propulsion systems.
The craft will be nearly 9m long and 4.5m in diameter, and it will weigh 22 metric tonnes. By comparison, a Shenzhou spacecraft is 9m long and 2.8m in diameter and weighs nearly 8 tonnes.
Shenzhou-series spacecraft consist of three modules – a forward orbital module, a re-entry capsule in the middle, and an aft service module.
Designers said that the new model will be able to undertake longer missions than the Shenzhou series, house more astronauts and cargo, and operate in a tougher environment.
It will be able to accommodate up to seven astronauts, compared with only three in the Shenzhou.
It will also be able to transport large amounts of materials between Earth and a space station, a function Shenzhou does not possess. — China Daily/ANN
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