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Shenzhou 9

Tyneside, UK
2017 Mar 24
Friday, Day 83

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Shenzhou 9 Diary

This Diary is extracted from's 'Go For Launch' ongoing chronology of space events and includes all entries relating to Shenzhou 9.

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Tiangong 1 (Heavenly Temple 1) Launch
CZ-2FT1, Jiuquan SC
2011 Sep 29, 13:16
TianGong 1Successful launch of small laboratory, 8.5 tonnes mass (9 tonnes including fuel), to be used in docking experiments during visits by Shenzhou 8, Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10. The last two will carry crews. Anticipated life is two years after which it will be de-orbited. Precise time: 13:16:03 UTC, at the beginning of a fifteen minute launch window. The date was on the third day of a potential launch period that was set after completion of the investigation into the 2011 Aug CZ launch failure with SJ-11-04. Launch on the first two days of the window was precluded by weather. Construction complete and ground testing commenced 2010 August. Launch postponed from 2010 Oct for technical reasons, and then again from a target date in the first half of 2011. Tiangong was taken to the launch site 2011 Jun 29. Orbit details: Zarya's notes: NORAD:2011-053A/37820

Tiangong 1 Orbit Adjustment
on orbit
2011 Nov 18
Orbit raised to the region of 360 km after Shenzhou 8 departure, indicating that Shenzhou 9 will be launched 2012 March when the orbit has decayed back to Shenzhou operating height.

Tiangong 1 - Atmosphere Tests and Orientation Change
on orbit
2011 Dec 15
Regular check of internal air quality. Change in attitude affected the orbit decay rate, pushing the potential Shenzhou 9 launch date into May or, possibly, June.

Tiangong 1 - System Checks
on orbit
2011 Dec 16, 01:52
Check of cabin atmosphere, onboards systems. Also changed attitude in orbit, Part of regular series of checks while waiting for Shenzhou 9.

Tiangong 1 - Orbit Adjustment
2012 Mar 23
Overall height raised by about 10 kilometres. Possibly a reaction to an increased decay rate caused by high levels of solar activity causing, in turn, increased atmospheric drag.

Shenzhou 9 Launch Vehicle Arrives at Launch Site
Jiuquan SC
2012 Apr 9
CZ-2F launch vehicle arrives by rail from Beijing.

Shenzhou 9 Arrives at Launch Site
Jiuquan SC
2012 May 9
Transported by rail from Beijing.

Tiangong 1 Orbit Adjustment
on orbit
2012 May 26
To set up rendezvous window for Shenzhou 9.

Shenzhou 9 Roll-out
CZ-2FT1, Jiuquan SC
2012 Jun 9, 02:25
Launch vehicle and spacecraft taken to the launch pad:

Tiangong 1 - Orbit Adjustment
2012 Jun 11, 09:10
Perigee lowered by 9 km. The effect was to cause the Tiangong 1 ground track to drift eastwards from day to day compared with the stable location it held previously. Current orbit:: Orbit history: Indicates that Shenzhou 9 ascent profile may be different from Shenzhou 8. The time is approximate but is within about five minutes of the actual event.

Tiangong 1 - Orbit Adjustment
2012 Jun 14
Orbit adjusted upwards again to counteract ground track drift, ground track now stable and repeating on alternate days ready for Shenzhou 9. Current orbit:: Orbit history:

Shenzhou 9 Launch
CZ-2FT1, Jiuquan SC
2012 Jun 16, 10:37
Piloted spaceflight carrying crew of Jing Haipeng (Commander), Liu Wang (Flight Engineer) and Liu Yang (Mission Engineer) to Tiangong 1. Jing Haipeng is making his second flight after the Shenzhou 7 mission, and Liu Yang is female. Ignition at 10:37:21 UTC, launch/lift-off came 3s later. Spacecraft separation was 10:46:55 UTC, about 11s earlier than planned. Likely frequency: 2224.065 MHz. NORAD - 2012-032A/38461 Orbit notes:

Shenzhou 9 Orbit Adjustment
on orbit
2012 Jun 16, 17:15
Time is approximate, approaching Tiangong 1.

Shenzhou 9 - Rendezvous Phase
on orbit
2012 Jun 18, 03:47
Shenzhou 9 switched to automatic rendezvous when it was 52 kilometres behind Tiangong 1 and slightly below it. The time shown is approximate. Early reports suggested Shenzhou would complete an automatic rendezvous to a distance of 150 metres for the crew of three to conduct a manually-controlled docking. However, China confirmed an automatic docking with the crew undocking and conducting a manual re-docking later in the mission.

Shenzhou 9 Docking
on orbit - Tiangong 1
2012 Jun 18, 06:07

Shenzhou 9 - Crew Opens Hatch to Tiangong 1
on orbit - Tiangong 1
2012 Jun 18, 09:08
After checking the airtight seals and mission control was satisfied with the air quality aboard Tiangong 1, the crew opened the hatches between the two vehicles and went aboard a few minutes later. Ground track map: NOTE - the time between docking and hatch opening is dictated by the near-90 minute orbital period. Both events are safest done over Chinese tracking staions so the interval between them has to be about 1.5, 3, 4.5 hours, etc. The Russian standard has been three hours for nearly forty years.

Tiangong 1 - Orientation Change
on orbit
2012 Jun 20
Orientation changed so that complex is flying parallel to the ground with Shenzhou 9 leading. Prior to that Tiangong 1 was leading with the orientation being as it was at the time of docking where Shenzhou 9 approached from behind the station. Allows Tiangong 1 thrusters to maintain the orbit against air drag:

Tiangong 1 - Orientation Experiments
on orbit
2012 Jun 22, 04:00
Tiangong 1 orientation system was switched off. Liu Wang used the Shenzhou 9 attitude control system in manual mode to vary the orientation of the station and stabilise it in three different pre-determined attitudes with respect to Earth and the orbit. Mission Commander Jing Haipeng was with him in Shenzhou 9 and Liu Yang stayed aboard Tiangong 1. The purpose was probably to check Shenzhou's manual control system in preparation for the upcoming manual docking test scheduled for June 24. The time is approximate - announced by China as "around noon" Beijing Time (UTC +8 hours). Effects of orientation changes throughout the docked phase of the mission can be seen in the orbital parameter plots, eg:

Shenzhou 9 - Undocking from Tiangong 1
on orbit
2012 Jun 24, 03:12
Shenzhou 9 undocked from Tiangong 1 in order to undertake a manually-controlled test docking.

Shenzhou 9 - Manual Re-docking with Tiangong 1
on orbit
2012 Jun 24, 04:48

Shenzhou 9 - Preparations for Landing
2012 Jun 25
China Daily reports that preparations are under way in Inner Mongolia for Shenzhou 9's landing later in the week:

Tiangong 1 - Orientation Change
on orbit
2012 Jun 27, 06:42
Orientation changed so that complex is flying parallel to the ground with Tiangong 1 leading. Earlier, on Jun 20, it had been changed so Shenzhou 9 was leading for the Jun 24 manual docking test. Preparation for Shenzhou 9 departure.

Shenzhou 9 Undocking & Departure
on orbit
2012 Jun 28, 01:22
The crew started to enter Tiangong 1 shortly before 22:00 UTC on Jun 27, the Shenzhou hatch was closed at 22:37 UTC. Shenzhou undocked under manual control by Liu Yang (the earlier undocking on June 24 was automatic). After retreating to 5 kilometres behind Tiangong, Shenzhou approached automatically to the 140 m rendezvous point before again departing slowly from the vicinity of Tiangong 1.

Shenzhou 9 Retro-fire
on orbit
2012 Jun 29, 01:17
The orbital module separated about one minute earlier and the Descent Module let go the Service Module at about 01:37 UTC. Time is approximate.

Shenzhou 9 Landing
Inner Mongolia
2012 Jun 29, 02:02
Landed Inner Mongolia near 42° north, 111° east. Precise time - 02:02:50 UTC ±1 s.

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