China successfully launched the Shenzhou-11 spacecraft into orbit with two astronauts on board, making it the country’s sixth manned space mission. The spacecraft was lifted atop a Long March 2F rocket at 7:30 a.m. local time on Oct. 17 (7:30 p.m. EDT) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre located in the Gobi desert. The crewed space vehicle will reportedly dock with a new space laboratory module.
“The rocket is flying according to its original plan, and the Shenzhou spacecraft has entered its preliminary orbit,” said Gen. Zhang Youxia, chief commander of China’s manned space program. “I announce the launch of Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft is a complete success.”
Congratulations on a successful #Shenzhou11 launch today. https://t.co/zcPzOVeEz5
— NASA (@NASA) October 17, 2016
The two member crew on the spacecraft includes veteran astronaut Jing Haipeng, who flew on Shenzhou-7 in 2008 and Shenzhou-9 in 2012, as well as newbie astronaut Chen Dong who is making his first spaceflight. The spacecraft is scheduled to attach with the Tiangong-2 module on October 18. Incidentally, the module itself was launched on September 15. The two astronauts will stay on board the Tiangong-2 for a duration of 30 days, which will make this particular manned space mission twice as long as the prevalent human spaceflight endurance record held by China, with its Shenzhou-10 mission that took place in June 2013.
Haipeng and Dong will carry out a variety of space, medical and science experiments aboard the Tiangong-2 during their 30 day mission. In addition, the two astronauts will also examine the various systems of the module itself. The sixth manned space mission which took off on the Shenzhou-11 is part of China’s efforts to work on developing a permanent space station, and the country hopes to expect this station to be completed by the early 2020s, as per reports. Incidentally, the expected space station being developed by the country is not going to be as big as the International Space Station (ISS); however it will comprise of numerous smaller modules.