China to mass produce Shenzhou spaceship

September 26th, 2008 - 2:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Beijing, Sep 26 (Xinhua) China will soon begin mass production of its Shenzhou (Divine Vessel) spacecraft, the chief designer of the spacecraft system of China’s manned space programme said Friday. Zhang Bainan said the mass-produced model will serve as a shuttle between China’s space station and the ground, and may also transport astronauts and cargo for other countries.

The Shenzhou 7 spacecraft is currently in orbit with three astronauts one of who, Zhai Zhigang, will undertake a space walk later Friday.

The ground test of the prototype of the Shenzhou 8 spacecraft is under way, Zhang said, adding that a raft of ground tests and the seven successful outer space missions from Shenzhou 1 to Shenzhou 7 have laid “solid technical foundation” for the final design.

After Shenzhou 6 blasted off Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng into outer space in 2005, the two astronauts, together with Yang Liwei, proposed many changes to the design of spacecraft.

The upgraded Shenzhou 7 that is now running smoothly on its projected orbit, for instance, contained more than 220 improvements, big or small, based on Shenzhou 6.

“We have been very open-minded in absorbing the input from all fields concerned for better design and function. This explains why our spacecraft technology has developed rapidly,” Zhang said.

The final model would look roughly the same as the current one in use, but its interior would be much more comfortable, he noted.

He revealed that the final model, largely developed with own resources, should be safer, more reliable and able to support three astronauts to fly for seven days and complete the task of space station docking.

“The mass production would also allow intensive launch in a short period of time,” he said.

Apart from finalising the model of China’s manned spaceship, another mission of the Shenzhou-8 would be to seek for a breakthrough in the orbiter docking technology, a must step for the ultimate goal of building a permanent space laboratory and a space engineering system that will allow astronauts to conduct scientific experiments on larger scale.

The transportation vehicles currently in use between space stations and the ground are mainly space shuttles of the United States and Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.

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