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Shenzhou 10


Tyneside, UK
2018 Oct 16
Tuesday, Day 289

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Shenzhou 10 - Launch Abort Rescue Zones

2013 June 8 at about 02:45 UTC, Chinese Air Traffic Control authorities issued Notices to Airmen (NOTAMs) covering areas affected by the Shenzhou 10 launch from Jiuquan. The areas covered were much more extensive than for a satellite launch. They allowed for emergency landings in the event of a problem with the rocket's ascent or some issue being detected immediately on reaching orbit.


The NOTAMs

These are the NOTAMs covering the early stages of the flight:
A0664/13 - A TEMPORARY RESTRICTED AREA ESTABLISHED BOUNDED BY: N4204E10033-N4026E10006-
N3435E11915-N3605E12012 BACK TO START.VERTICAL LIMITS:SFC-UNL. ALL ACFT ARE PROHIBITED TO 
FLY INTO THE AREA WITHOUT PERMISSION BY ATC. SFC - UNL, 11 JUN 09:25 2013 UNTIL 
11 JUN 10:07 2013. CREATED: 08 JUN 02:41 2013
A0665/13 - A TEMPORARY RESTRICTED AREA ESTABLISHED BOUNDED BY:N3457E12043-N3416E12000-
N3220E12400-N3321E12400 BACK TO START.VERTICAL LIMITS: GND-UNL. ALL ACFT ARE PROHIBITED TO 
FLY INTO THE AREA WITHOUT PERMISSION BY ATC. SFC - UNL, 11 JUN 09:25 2013 UNTIL 
11 JUN 10:09 2013. CREATED: 08 JUN 02:43 2013
This third one is for the emergency landing zone should Shenzhou have detected a problem soon after reaching orbit that meant the mission could not be completed:
A0666/13 - A TEMPORARY RESTRICTED AREA ESTABLISHED BOUNDED 
BY:N3147E10333-N2921E10750-N3017E10828-N3228E10359 BACK TO START. 
VERTICAL LIMITS: GND-UNL. ALL ACFT ARE PROHIBITED TO FLY INTO THE 
AREA. SFC - UNL, 11 JUN 11:15 2013 UNTIL 11 JUN 12:03 2013. 
CREATED: 08 JUN 02:47 2013
In addition, NOTAMs were issued for a number of air route closures where they crossed Shenzhou's ground track.


Restricted Areas at Launch

One of the differences between a Shenzhou mission and a basic satellite launch is that the piloted vehicle carries a Launch Escape System to carry the cabin clear of the rocket in an emergency. With a basic satellite launch, NOTAMs cover only the impact points of spent rocket stages and the payload fairing. They are predictable and the affected areas are quite small, only tens of square kilometres. When a launcher carries an escape rocket to pull a spacecraft clear, it can fire at any point on the ascent trajectory so the area that has to be protected is much larger. NOTAM area A0664/13 is probably expanded further to ensure that airborne rescue services can operate unhindered by other air traffic.

The smaller polygon over the sea, covered by NOTAM A0665/13 is an extension of the main area and shows where a rescue fleet consisting of aircraft and a Search and Rescue ship would be operating during the launch.


On-orbit Emergency

An emergency once in orbit could be dealt with by the crew initiating re-entry at the end of the first circuit of the Earth, heading for a landing in the smaller rectangular area to the south of Jiuquan. The concept will be familiar to followers of the American Space Shuttle programme as 'AOA' (Abort Once Around), and for Russian programme afficionados - Soyuz has the same options at launch.

In reality, Shenzhou may be programmed to re-enter at the end of the first orbit anyway. Only a positive action by the crew, indicating that they have confidence the vehicle is in good shape, can then prevent it happening. The NOTAM said the area was closed from about one and a half hours (one orbit) after lift-off.

The three zones outlined in the NOTAMs are shown on the map below. The largest area is the one defined in A0664/13. A0665/13 is the smaller area to the west of it. A0666/13 covers the landing zone on rev 1 at the end of the first circuit of the Earth.

NOTAM map


Downrange

There was a further emergency area about 1200 kilometres east of the island of Guam, where a helicopter carrying rescue vessel was stationed but no navigation warnings were issued for it. Its mission was to deal with an emergency splashdown following a problem later in the ascent, after the Launch Escape System has been jettisoned. If the launch vehicle's final stage had malfunctioned, it is where Shenzhou would have landed as a result of separating itself from the rocket.

It is shown on the map below, together with the locations of the three Yuan Wang tracking ships - all were at sea during the launch but Yuan Wang 3 was not directly involved.

NOTAM map


Originally published in zarya.info Blog: 2013 Jun 8
Re-edited for web: 2016 Jan 9
Copyright © Robert Christy, all rights reserved
Reproduction in whole or in part without permission is prohibited