Shenzhou-16 Spacecraft Successfully Completes Five Autonomous Orbit Changes, Approaching Chinese Space Station

May 30, 2023, China’s Shenzhou-16 spacecraft, was launched today (May 30) at 9:31 am. The mission is led by astronauts Jing Haipeng, Zhu Yangzhu, and Gui Haichao.

The crew arrived at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 7:02 am to begin preparations. They greeted the media present on site before boarding the spacecraft. The ignition was set for 9:31:10 am. Around 9:50 am, officials announced the successful separation of the Shenzhou-16 from its launch vehicle, confirming it had entered its planned orbit. The astronaut crew is in good condition, signifying a successful launch.

After entering orbit, the Shenzhou-16 faces the crucial task of docking with the Chinese space station. As of the afternoon of May 30, the Shenzhou-16 has successfully completed five autonomous orbit changes and is gradually approaching the space station.

Following the docking, the crew will conduct a range of missions, including spacewalks, space science experiments, and the installation, debugging, and maintenance of various onboard and external equipment. The Shenzhou-16 crew will also conduct an orbital changeover with the crew of the Shenzhou-15.

The Shenzhou-16 crew consists of astronaut Jing Haipeng, who is making his fourth space flight, a record for Chinese astronauts, along with astronauts Zhu Yangzhu and Gui Haichao. Jing and Zhu are both experienced astronauts, having carried out previous Shenzhou missions. In addition to their piloting duties, they will be conducting technical experiments on the spacecraft.

The crew also features a payload specialist for the first time: Gui Haichao, a professor at Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics. Gui is responsible for the in-orbit operation of the space science experiment payload and is a seasoned operator with professional training in science and space engineering. He has the unique distinction of being China’s first space expert to set foot on the Tiangong.

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With this mission, Shenzhou-16 becomes the 16th mission in the ‘Shenzhou’ series and the 11th manned space flight mission as part of the Chinese Human Spaceflight Program. It’s also the first flight mission during the operational phase of the Chinese space station.

As part of their duties aboard the Tiangong, the crew will perform extravehicular activities, conduct space science experiments, complete installation, debugging, maintenance, and repair tasks for both internal and external equipment.

The successful launch of Shenzhou-16 marks another significant milestone for China’s ambitious space program. The mission’s progress is being watched with keen interest by space enthusiasts and scientists across the world.