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How is Shenzhou-9 different from Shenzhou-8 in rendezvous, docking

(People's Daily Online)

08:09, June 20, 2012

Edited and translated by Peopel's Daily Online

In addition to the largest difference of being a manned spacecraft, the Shenzhou-9 is also different with the Shenzhou-8 in the following aspects when it rendezvous and docks with the Tiangong-1.

They rendezvous and dock in different directions

The Shenzhou-8 unmanned spacecraft rendezvous and docks from behind twice, namely the spacecraft catches up with and docks with the space lab module Tiangong-1 from behind and then it retreats 140 meters to make the second docking with the Tiangong-1. However, the Shenzhou-9 docks with Tiangong-1 from the front. The Tiangong-1 catches up with Shenzhou-9 and the Shenzhou-9 automatically separates and retreats 400 meters to make the second docking with the front of Tiangong-1.

The methods of rendezvous and docking are different

The rendezvous and docking between Shenzhou-8 and Tiangong-1 is automatic under the guide of the rendezvous and docking equipment on the spacecraft while that between Shenzhou-9 and Tiangong-1 is not only automatic but also uses the manual control to testify the manually controlled rendezvous and docking technology of astronauts.

Actually, the manual control of a spacecraft is equipped on the spacecraft from Shenzhou-1 to Shenzhou-8 but astronauts had never had an actual operation in previous space travel, namely the astronauts only sat in the cabin but did not drive the spacecraft. It will be the first time for the astronauts of Shenzhou-9 to manually control the spacecraft and make rendezvous and docking to personally experience the feeling of driving it.

The environment of rendezvous and docking is different

As the Shenzhou-8 will make its first space rendezvous and docking, it was designed to start automatic rendezvous and docking in sunshine area but come to the shadow area after finishing the rendezvous and docking so as to reduce the interference caused by the light waves while the Shenzhou-9 makes rendezvous and docking in full sunshine area.

As the light waves in the space will interfere with the measuring equipment, the rendezvous and docking of Shenzhou-9 is more difficult than that of Shenzhou-8 and it will be a severe test for the rendezvous and docking equipment.

From two spacecraft to an integrated whole

The rendezvous and docking between the Shenzhou-8 and Tiangong-1 only completes a rigid connection between the two but the cabin doors connecting the two spacecraft do not open. Therefore, they are not a real integrated whole in terms of the inner environment of the cabin.

The astronauts of the Shenzhou-9 will enter in the Tiantong-1 to work and live as an integrated whole, therefore the cabin doors of the two spacecraft will open. The Shenzhou-9 will be the first to connect with Tiangong-1 and they will become two connected rooms running in space. The astronauts will walk through the Shenzhou-9 and enter the Tiangong-1 to live and work. Thus, the environmental control and life support equipment including the carbon dioxide purification device and microbial control device will be opened to provide working and living environment similar to that on the earth.

Source: Beijing Evening News


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