Other name: SZ-10. Type: Manned spaceflight. Crew size: 3. Programme: Project 921-II. Agency: CMSA. Spacecraft family: Shenzhou. Orbit: LEO. Launch site: Jiuquan. Launch complex: Pad 921 (SLS1). Launch vehicle: CZ-2F (Y10). Launch date: 2013-06-11. Lift-off time: 17:38:02 CST. Landing: 2013-06-26 08:07 CST. Duration: 14 days 14 hours 29 minutes.
Shenzhou 10 was China’s fifth manned space flight mission and the tenth flight of the Shenzhou vehicle. It was the last of the three Shenzhou flight missions intended for the test of the rendezvous and docking technique with the Tiangong 1 space laboratory. The mission lasted for 15 days, a new record in duration in the history of China’s manned space programme.
According the Chinese Manned Space Agency (CMSA), Shenzhou 10 was the first ‘operational’ flight mission in its manned space programme, with four main objectives: to ferry the crew and materials between the earth and the Tiangong 1 space laboratory and test the performance of the Shenzhou capsule and its docking system; to further demonstrate the crew’s ability to live and operate in the Shenzhou-Tiangong spacecraft complex; to demonstrate the adaptability and efficiency of the crew in orbit and also to broadcast a classroom lesson to Chinese students; to further perfect the coordination between different systems in the manned space programme.
The prime crew of the Shenzhou 10 mission is identical to the back-up crew of Shenzhou 9, with Nie Haisheng as the Mission Commander and Pilot during the manual docking test, Zhang Xiaoguang the Flight Engineer, and Wang Yaping the Mission Specialist.
The 48-year-old former fighter pilot Major General Nie Haisheng first flew in space in 2005 as the Flight Engineer in the Shenzhou 6 mission, having spent 4 days and 19 hours in orbit. He was also one of the back-up crews for the Shenzhou 5 mission in 2003.
The Flight Engineer Zhang Xiaoguang was one of the 14 astronaut candidates recruited into the Astronaut Corps in 1998, and was a first-timer in Shenzhou missions.
Wang Yaping was recruited into the Astronaut Corps as one of the two female candidates in 2010. She was the second Chinese female astronaut to have flown in space, after Liu Yang in the Shenzhou 9 mission in 2012.
Launch campaign for the Shenzhou 10 mission began on 31 March 2013, when the Shenzhou spacecraft vehicle completed its initial test in the Beijing Space City and was airlifted to the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre. The CZ-2F (Y10) launch vehicle arrived at the launch centre by railway on 2 May. The fuelling of the spacecraft’s service and re-entry modules was completed on 23 May. The prime and backup mission crews flew to the launch centre on 3 June, though their identities were not disclosed to the public until a day before the launch.
The rollout of the CZ-2F-Shenzhou 10 stack occurred at 09:00 local time on 3 June. The launch vehicle was carried atop the Mobile Launcher Platform, which travels on a 20 metres wide rail track at a speed of under 20 metres per minute. It took the platform 75 minutes to complete the 1,500 m journey from the Vehicle Assembly Building to the umbilical tower at Pad 921, where it received final checkouts. The fuelling of the CZ-2F rocket began at about 30 hours prior to the scheduled lift-off time.
At 14:48 CST on 11 June, the three crew members in their white pressure suits appeared on the small square in front of the astronaut apartment in the launch centre headquarters. After a brief departure ceremony, the crew travelled to the launch site about 6.5 km away on a minibus. They arrived at the launch pad at 15:20 CST and took the elevator to get to the ninth floor on the umbilical tower, where they could take some rest in a small waiting room.
The hatch on the Orbital Module of the Shenzhou spacecraft was opened at 15:28 CST. Zhang Xiaoguang first entered the spacecraft and descended into his seat in the Re-entry Module, followed by Wang Yaping and then Nie Haisheng. In the following two hours, they needed to complete a number of procedures including the pressurisation of the spacecraft modules, the sealing of the hatch, the test on the communications system and the connection of their pressure suits to the spacecraft.
At 17:37, the Launch Control Centre issued order for the 60-second countdown. The three astronauts lowered the spherical visor on their helmet and got ready for the take-off. The launch vehicle ignited its eight liquid rocket engines on the core-stage and four strap-on boosters at 17:38:02 CST (09:38:02 GMT). The vehicle cleared the launch tower within few seconds and pitched to east to fly downrange.
The jettison of the launch escape tower and the separation of the four boosters and the first stage all occurred exactly as expected. At 17:50, the spacecraft was separated from the second-stage of the rocket and entered an initial parking orbit of 200.0 x 329.8 km. The solar panel wings were successfully deployed and the three crew members reported to be in good shape.
After several orbit elevation manoeuvres, Shenzhou 10 entered the docking orbit. At 10:48 CST on 13 June, the spacecraft switched to automated flight mode, under the guidance of the rendezvous tracking radar. Commander Nie Haisheng and Flight Engineer Zhang Xiaoguang were on standby to take over the control should the automated docking fail.
The two spacecraft vehicles made first contact at 13:11 CST and were fully joined moment later. The hatch to Tiangong 1 was opened at 16:17 CST and the three crew members have entered the space lab. Unlike the previous Shenzhou 9 mission, the docking of Shenzhou 10 with Tiangong 1 was not broadcast on live TV.
Onboard Tiangong 1
One of Shenzhou 10’s tasks was to replace the original light yellow soft flooring inside Tiangong 1 with new white-colour hard flooring boards. The original design was intended to protect the crew from injury when moving inside the module. However, experience from the Shenzhou 9 mission suggested that the soft flooring actually made it difficult for the crew members to keep balance. The new hard flooring boards were carried in the Shenzhou 10 Orbital Module and installed soon after the crew boarded the space lab module.
At 10:00 CST on 20 June, astronaut Wang Yaping gave a live video lesson to Chinese school students from Tiangong 1, the first of its kind in China. More than 60 million students across the country were expected to watch the lecture. The 45-min lecture covered a range of subjects including Newton’s second law of motion, as well as a brief Q&A session.
At 08:26 CST (00:26 GMT) on 23 June, Shenzhou 10 undocked with Tiangong 1 under the manual control of Commander Nie Haisheng. The spacecraft retreated to a hold position, where it’s status was examined by the ground control. After the ground confirmation that both spacecraft vehicles were in good shape, Nie controlled the Shenzhou vehicle to dock with Tiangong 1 again, with Zhang Xiaoguang and Wang Yaping assisting him.
The two spacecraft vehicles made initial contact at 10:00 CST (02:00 GMT), and a full connection between the two was established 7 minutes later. At 13:09 CST (05:09 GMT), the three crew members re-entered Tiangong 1 to complete the remainder of their mission onboard the space laboratory.
On 24 June, the Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Beijing Aerospace Control Centre and spoke to the three Shenzhou 10 crew members onboard Tiangong 1 via video link.
At 05:07 CST on 25 June, the Shenzhou 10 crew exited from Tiangong 1 and sealed the hatch in the docking port. Shenzhou 10 then undocked with Tiangong 1 for the last time.
Shortly after the undocking, Shenzhou10 completed a 180° manoeuvre around Tiangong 1, from a plus V-bar position to a minus V-bar position. The whole manoeuvre took about 2 hours to complete.
The re-entry sequence was initiated in the early morning Beijing time on 26 June, about two hours prior to the scheduled landing time. At 08:07 CST (00:07 GMT) on 26 June, Shenzhou 10 re-entry capsule carrying the three crew members safely landed in Inner Mongolia.