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Tiangong 1

Tyneside, UK
2018 Feb 26
Monday, Day 57

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Tiangong Diary

This Diary is extracted from's 'Go For Launch' ongoing chronology of space events and includes all entries relating to Tiangong 1.

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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 Sep 29, 17:58
Apogee raised by 9km to 355 km (Chinese measurement system).

Tiangong 1 Orbit Adjustment
on orbit
2011 Sep 30, 08:09
Perigee raised from 200 km to 362 km, making it the new apogee (Chinese measurement system).

Shenzhou 8 Launch
CZ-2FT1, Jiuquan SC
2011 Oct 31, 21:58
Successful launch into orbit of man-rated spacecraft without crew. Objective is to undertake docking tests with Tiangong 1 (2011-053A/37820). Precise time: 21:58:07 UTC. The mission is flying as a biosatellite with a payload of plants and animals and will last slightly over two weeks. Part of the payload is DLR of Germany's SIMBOX (Science in Microgravity Box). Trajectories and maps: Orbit details: Frequency: 2224.065 MHz NORAD: 2011-063A/37859

Shenzhou 8 Docking with Tiangong 1
on orbit
2011 Nov 2, 17:28
Succesful unpiloted test docking with Tiangong 1 module. The two vehicles were latched together eight minutes later at 17:36 UTC. Shenzhou 8 notes: Tthey will remain docked for 12 days then separate and conduct a second docking before Shenzhou returns to Earth.

Shenzhou 8 Undocking
on orbit
2011 Nov 14, 11:27
Successfully accomplished. Mission notes:

Shenzhou 8 Second Docking with Tiangong 1
on orbit
2011 Nov 14, 11:53
Succesful test of sensors with interference from sunlight. Mission notes:

Shenzhou 8 Undocking
on orbit
2011 Nov 16, 10:44
Undocked from Tiangong 1 prior to planned landing Nov 17. Notes:

Shenzhou 8 Landing
Inner Mongolia
2011 Nov 17, 11:32
Location - inner Mongolia near 42°.2 north, 111°.3 east. Precise time - 11:32:14 ±2s. Followed OM separation at 10:44, retro-fire at 10:45 and OM/SM separation at 11:07 UTC. Notes:

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.

X-37B - NOT Spying on Tiangong 1
2012 Jan 6
British Interplanetary Society magazine "Spaceflight" carries an embarrassingly incorrect story suggesting the USAF X-37B space plane is spying on Tiangong 1, notes:

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.

Tiangong 1 Raises Orbit
on orbit
2012 Jun 28, 07:30
After departure of Shenzhou 9, raised apogee by 13 km as start of move to higher 'storage orbit' and to await Shenzhou 10. The time is approximate.

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.

Tiangong 1 Raises Orbit
on orbit
2012 Jun 29, 04:05
Second part of manoeuvre following Shenzhou 9 departure raised perigee by 30 km to become the new apogee. Completion, of manoeuvre to higher 'storage orbit' to await Shenzhou 10: The time is approximate. Orbit history:

Tiangong 1 - Unusual Behaviour
on orbit
2012 Jul 10
Tiangong 1 entered a phase where onboard thrusters were operated at frequent intervals to affect the orbit. Either it has a problem or it is an orbit-control experiment. Notes:

Tiangong 1 - Orbit Adjustment
on orbit
2012 Aug 30, 13:10
Orbit raised in two-part engine firing in a 3-4 hour period centred around this time. Indicates that the launch date for Shenzhou 10 has been moved from a possible late-2012 to a 'probable' one early 2013 between late-Jan and late-Feb. New orbit is near-identical to 2012 July, immediately after Shenzhou 9 departure. Orbit parameters (see values for July 5 through to August 30): Orbital History in chart form:

Tiangong 1 - Thruster Firings cease
on orbit
2012 Sep 4
Tiangong 1's orbit decay rate no longer being controlled by onboard thrusters (see entry for July 10). Decay rate now following solar weather trend. Return to Shenzhou operating height will be early January. See plot (note that fluctuations follow the space weather trend):

Tiangong Orbit Boost
on orbit
2012 Oct 15, 11:45
Single firing of thrusters raises apogee by 10 km. Orbit goes from 346 x 353 km to 345 x 373 km. Tiangong 1's ground track was not passing near the Chinese mainland at the time so may have been a test of control via one of the Yuanwang tracking ships or a test of operating in an automatic mode. The time is approximate. Details in the entry here:

Tiangong Orbit Boost
on orbit
2012 Oct 15, 18:25
Single firing of thrusters raises perigee by 12 km. Orbit goes from 345 x 373 km to 367 x 374. Completion of a two-part manoeuvre started earlier in the day, almost matching the highest orbit achieved by Tiangong 1 of 368 x 379 km during 2011 November. Details in the entry here:

Shenzhou 10 - China's Initial Planning
2012 Nov 10
Shenzhou 10 will be in orbit early-June 2013 and the crew may include a female astronaut. Mission length will be 15 days with 13 days docked with Tiangong 1. The plan allows for the mission to slip into July or August.

Tiangong 1 Orbit Boost
On orbit
2013 Feb 4
Apogee and perigee raised in a two part manoeuvre in order to set up the orbit for the Shenzhou 10 mission, due for launch 2013 June 11. Later, the the orbit will be adjusted, ready for rendezvous, as happened with Shenzhou 9: Tiangong 1 Orbit history: Shenzhou 10 launch window evolution:

Shenzhou 10 - Launch Vehicle Inspection
2013 Mar 19
Long March 2F for the mission passes the Factory Review - ready for shipping to Jiuquan:

Shenzhou 10 - Spacecraft Inspection
2013 Mar 22
Spacecraft passes the Factory Review - ready for shipping to Jiuquan:

Shenzhou 10 - Departure from Beijing
2013 Mar 30, 22:00
Packed in three consignments: service module, crew cabin and orbital module for transport to Jiuquan using two aircraft. Launch campaign timetable:

Shenzhou 10 - Arrival Jiuquan
2013 Mar 31, 01:00
Arrival time is for landing at the Jiuquan Space Centre airport. Launch campaign timetable:

Shenzhou 10 - Launch Vehicle to Launch Site
Nanyuan railway station, Beijing
2013 Apr 29, 03:00
One day later than the forecast:

Shenzhou 10 - Launch Vehicle Arrival at Jiuquan
2013 May 2, 08:00
Approximate time. Notes:

Shenzhou 10 - Mission Readiness Review
2013 May 20
Date implied by subsequent events.

Tiangong 1 - Orbit Lowered
2013 May 21, 18:20
Manoeuvre in preparation for the Shenzhou 10 mission. Time is approximate and there is a slight possibility it occurred one revolution earlier - around 16:47 UTC. Orbit changed from from 339 x 334 km to 333 x 341 km to set up the ground track. Location is be 5-6 degrees to the east of the one used for the Shenzhou 8 and 9 missions. It allows for the use of an R-bar approach from below rather than the previous missions' approach from behind.

Shenzhou 10 - Ready to Fly
Jiuquan SC, China
2013 May 24
Final task - filling of propellant, gas-pressure and air tanks was started May 19 and finished today.

Shenzhou 10 - Rolled Out to Launch Pad
Jiuquan SC
2013 Jun 3, 01:00
Shenzhou 10 moved to launch pad.

Tiangong 1 - Orbit Adjustment
2013 Jun 6
Manoeuvre in preparation for the Shenzhou 10 mission. Orbit lowered by 1 km.

Shenzhou 10 - Launch Date Confirmed
2013 Jun 8, 02:45
NOTAMs (Notices to Airmen) issued for June 11 - covering no-fly zones down the launch range and for the emergency landing zone at the end of the first orbit: Effectively - confirmation of the launch date.

Shenzhou 10 Launch
CZ-2FT1, Jiuquan SC
2013 Jun 11, 09:38
Successful launch of piloted mission with crew Nie Haisheng, Zhang Xiaoguang, Wang Yaping (female). Aimed at docking with Tiangong 1. Mission set to run for fifteen days. Launch sequence UTC: 09:37:59 - Ignition 09:38:03 - liftoff 09:40 - launch escape tower jettison 09:40 - first stage boosters and core separation, stage 2 ignition 09:41 - fairing jettison 09:45 - CZ-2F stage 2 shutdown 09:47:34 - separation from launch vehicle 09:49 - solar panels open 09:50 - Tianlian comms aerial deploy Shenzhou entered orbit about 10,000 kilometres behind Tiangong 1. Date was the third launch opportunity in a seven-day-long window. Earlier dates were probably ruled out because Chinese president Xi Jinping was in California and was scheduled to be at Jiuquan for the launch. Twitter feed: on Facebook: Frequencies (all on continuous transmission: 2208.720 MHz (Shenzhou) 2224.065 MHz (Shenzhou) 2232.215 MHz (Tiangong) 2250.740 MHz (Tiangong) Background notes: Launch campaign: Orbit notes: NORAD: 2013-029A/39179

Shenzhou 10 Docking
Tiangong 1
2013 Jun 13, 05:11
Shenzhou 10 began an automatic approach to Tiangong 1 at 02:48 UTC. Docking was followed by closure of latches between the two vehicles at 05:18 UTC. Docking was one minute later than the pre-launch estimate. The crew went aboard Tiangong 1 about three hours later, opening hatches at 08:17 UTC.

Tiangong 1 - Space Lesson
on orbit
2013 Jun 20, 02:04
Crew of Tiangong 1 provided a lesson for Chinese schools/colleges on the science of microgravity. Video with English commentary from CCTV: Notes:

Shenzhou 10 - Undocking from Tiangong 1
on orbit
2013 Jun 23, 00:26
Shenzhou 10 undocked from Tiangong 1, carrying Nie Haisheng, Zhang Xiaoguang and Wang Yaping, in order to undertake a manually-controlled test approach and docking.

Shenzhou 10 - Manual Re-docking with Tiangong 1
on orbit
2013 Jun 23, 02:00
Culmination of test. At 01:50 UTC, Nie Hasheng was given the go ahead and initiated a manually controlled approach at 01:52 UTC from a position 140 metres in front of Tiangong. Docking at 02:00 was followed by the two vehicles being locked together at 02:07 UTC. The crew then re-entered Tiangong 1 at 05:09 UTC.

Shenzhou 10 Undocking
on orbit
2013 Jun 24, 23:05
Undocking from Tiangong 1 - carrying Nie Haisheng, Zhang Xiaoguang and Wang Yaping. Tiangong was above southern Africa and in view of the Swakopmund tracking station. Hatch closure occurred at 21:07 UTC when Tiangong 1 was above the Santiago, Chile tracking station. Time was about 22 minutes earlier than the timeline of the Shenzhou 8 and 9 missions. Followed by a fly-round of Tiangong 1 where both spacecraft manoeuvred to simulate varying approach/docking orientations including R-bar (approach from below). Shenzhou then reportedly re-docked briefly with Tiangong after approaching along the orbit from behind. It is unlikely that the docking ring was retracted to seal the interface. Tiangong 1 will continue in orbit but no more visits are planned. It will ultimately make a destructive re-entry over the Pacific Ocean.

Tiangong 1 Orbit Raised
2013 Jun 25
First element of a two-part manoeuvre, data:

Shenzhou 10 Retro-fire
2013 Jun 25, 23:18
Other events: 23:19 - Orbital Module separation 23:43 - Service Module jettison (estimated from video, excludes any transmission delay) 23:55 - Parachute opening (estimated from video, excludes any transmission delay) Detailed notes, maps and pre-event time estimates: NOTE - due to transmission delays (up to four minutes), other sources of information may be quoting incorrect times for these events.

Tiangong 1 Orbit Raised
2013 Jun 26
Second element of a two-part manoeuvre, data:

Shenzhou 10 Landing
2013 Jun 26, 00:07
Precise time according to camera internal clock 00:07:03, in line with pre-event estimate of 00:07 UTC:

Tiangong 1 Orbit Boost
2013 Sep 11
Raised to counteract effects of decay. See:

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