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  Tiangong-1: Viewing, comments, questions (Page 1)

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Author Topic:   Tiangong-1: Viewing, comments, questions
Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-29-2011 07:22 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Tiangong-1: mission viewing, questions, comments
This thread is intended for members' comments and questions about China's Tiangong-1 mission and the updates posted under the topic: China's Tiangong-1 unmanned space module.

The Tiangong-1 unmanned space module is a prototype for a space station and an experimental space laboratory. It will be primarily used to carry out rendezvous and docking tests to gain experience for the construction, management and operation of future manned orbiting laboratory.

Within two years of Tiangong-1 being launched, China plans to launch the unmanned Shenzhou 8 and manned Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10 spacecraft to practice rendezvous and docking with the Tiangong-1 module.

Glint
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posted 09-29-2011 10:35 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Launch video from CCTV here.

Glint
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posted 09-29-2011 10:53 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
In an article released today, Xinhua states all three upcoming Shenzhou missions are unmanned.
The unmanned Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 spacecraft are designed to attach robotically to the Tiangong 1 module in the first dockings in orbit.
This is the first time I've read that all three Shenzhou flights would be unmanned; most sources I've seen have stated both Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10 be manned. However, the source is Chinese.

On edit, I think it's poor editing/reading because later in the article it goes on to imply that at least one, Shenzhou 10, will be manned (perhaps with females).

According to plan for China's manned space program, the Shenzhou-10 will be a manned spacecraft, possibly carrying a female Chinese who will test manual space rendezvous and docking with the Tiangong-1.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-29-2011 11:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
My understanding after talking with others who are better versed on China's plans is that Shenzhou 9 may be manned if everything with Shenzhou 8 goes smoothly and Shenzhou 10 will be manned.

The confusion created by the Xinhua report may be a translation problem.

They may have meant for "unmanned" to only describe Shenzhou 8 and not the subsequently listed spacecraft.

issman1
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posted 09-29-2011 11:20 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm pleased that Tiangong-1 was successfully launched into orbit, but what is the inclination?

If it's 42 degrees, like all previous Shenzhou missions, then it will not be visible from the UK. Personally, it's a pity it isn't linking up with ISS.

Philip
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posted 09-29-2011 11:40 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Philip   Click Here to Email Philip     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center is about 40° inclination...

Well done to the Chinese space program!

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-29-2011 02:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Glint:
This is the first time I've read that all three Shenzhou flights would be unmanned;
Xinhua clarifies (and confirms what I heard from others) in this infographic.
  • Shenzhou 8 - unmanned
  • Shenzhou 9 - manned according to the conditions
  • Shenzhou 10 - planned manned

Jay Chladek
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posted 09-29-2011 05:22 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by issman1:
Personally, it's a pity it isn't linking up with ISS.
Even if China got a green light to dock with ISS, they certainly wouldn't be doing it with their first module as the thing needs to find out if it can even dock at all.

I wish them continued success (as it may help the budget fight back home). Looking at the artist's rendering, it reminds me a little of the early Salyut/Almaz cores with its stepped cylinder configuration.

It can't be very big though as according to my references on the Long March, it can only lift payloads of about 12.3 tons into LEO, which is about half of what the Proton can do (23.15 tons, a little heavier capacity compared to what it had for Salyut 1). As such, the development of docking systems and a modular building block approach will be critical to a Chinese station program.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-29-2011 05:38 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jay Chladek:
It can't be very big though as according to my references on the Long March, it can only lift payloads of about 12.3 tons into LEO...
According to state media, the Long March 2F T1 (the modified Long March 2F for lifting Tiangong-1) has a launch capability of 8.6 tons.

Tiangong-1 is 10.4 meters (34 feet) long, has a maximum diameter of 3.35 meters (11 feet) and had a liftoff mass of 8.5 tons.

issman1
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posted 09-29-2011 10:10 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Jay Chladek:
Even if China got a green light to dock with ISS, they certainly wouldn't be doing it with their first module...

Weren't the European ATV and Japanese HTV both given the "green light to dock with ISS" on their first flights? Similarly, their modules hitched a lift on US shuttles since they could not reach orbit autonomously nor function independently, unlike Chinese, Russian and even Bigelow Aerospace's modules.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 09-30-2011 03:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
China has enough concerns about their own rendezvous and docking system that they are flying their first Tiangong-1-bound Shenzhou without a crew (and won't man the second module-bound ship unless the first one performs without problems). But even were that not the case, it is a specious conclusion that China is only developing its own space station because it is not participating in the ISS.

Glint
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posted 09-30-2011 09:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by issman1:
...what is the inclination?

If it's 42 degrees, like all previous Shenzhou missions, then it will not be visible from the UK.


Even with its inclination of 42.7 degrees, it's still visible from the UK, although its passes will be low. From UK cities such as as London, at Latitude N 51.5, pass altitudes will be under +15 degrees. Using binoculars, even satellite passes under +10 degrees in altitude aren't difficult to observe -- especially ones as large as Tiangong-1.

The 28.5 degree inclination of HST doesn't prevent it from being seen from N 39.5 here despite the 11 degree difference. HST is frequently visible during its passes through our southern sky.

Granted, HST's greater height helps, but Tiangong-1 should be visible from some, though not all, of the UK when lighting conditions are favorable. However, with winter approaching, those opportunities will become fewer and farther between.

dom
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posted 09-30-2011 10:38 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A bizarre footnote to the launch is reported by the BBC.
China's state TV accompanied coverage of the historic launch of the country's first space laboratory with a patriotic US song, America the Beautiful.

The song is regarded by many as an unofficial national anthem for the US, and features the line: "America! America! God shed his grace on thee."

Some Chinese people say that CCTV must have made a mistake with the music. The broadcaster has not commented.

Hard to tell if it was a mistake or intended to make fun of a "grounded" America?

Glint
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posted 09-30-2011 01:13 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by dom:
Hard to tell if it was a mistake or intended to make fun of a "grounded" America?

False choice. Perhaps they simply like the tune.

On Edit: Here it is via MSNBC.

O beautiful for halcyon skies

issman1
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posted 10-01-2011 08:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Glint:
...it's still visible from the UK, although its passes will be low.

Too low where I am, but clearly visible to NASA employees in Houston and Cape Canaveral.

Prospero
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posted 10-02-2011 05:11 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Prospero     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I know it's a bit on the small side, but I'm surprised the Chinese government are referring to this as a "space lab" and not a "space station". It's a pressurised facility in orbit that's designed to be visited by crews and worked in. If there's some other definition of a space station, I don't know what it is. I'm assuming the sole distinction is size? In which case, how big does a "space lab" have to be before it's a "space station"?

328KF
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posted 10-02-2011 04:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for 328KF   Click Here to Email 328KF     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by issman1:
it's a pity it isn't linking up with ISS.
I wouldn't presume to speak for all Americans, but my personal view is that isn't a pity at all. This has been discussed a lot, and Bolden seems to flip back and forth on the issue, but one would wonder, what is the advantage to the U.S. and the other ISS partners?

The Chinese are in the infancy of their program, one that began decades after the U.S., Europe, and Russia began theirs and worked together on cooperation in space. They have a lot to learn, and frankly, a lot to earn before they could be considered on par with most space faring nations.

The current state of affairs with U.S. transportation to the ISS is no excuse to give China open access to such a unique, historic facility which they had no part in funding or building. The small amount of uplift they could provide is hardly a fair exchange, and the likelihood of the American public going along with subcontracting more endeavours such as crew transport to China is quite slim.

America takes enormous pride in it's now past ability to put people in space, and will take pride in whatever future system comes along. Our economy is at a point where we are trying to bring as much production and jobs back into the U.S. and away from foreign countries, not the other way around. China is probably the single greatest threat to these goals.

Some like to think that space is a realm in which politics do not exist. The reality is far different, and I do not see any public support for this coming from a population which has suffered greatly from the policies which have sent their jobs to China.

I say let them build their own, or buy more of the technology from Russia which got them there in the first place.

arjuna
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posted 10-02-2011 05:59 PM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by 328KF:
The Chinese are in the infancy of their program, one that began decades after the U.S., Europe, and Russia began theirs and worked together on cooperation in space. They have a lot to learn, and frankly, a lot to earn before they could be considered on par with most space faring nations.
328KF is certainly entitled to his opinion, but this kind of attitude seems not only churlish but self-defeating. Last time I checked - with all due respect to ESA or JAXA - Europe or Japan haven't launched their own manned space capsules; only the U.S., Russia, and China have. So I think China has already earned the world's respect, although some individuals seem to be disinclined to acknowledge it.

I am not naive, and I recognize there are transparency and security/dual-use issues at play, but denigrating China's civilian space efforts seems like the kind of attitude that a weak player would use. (I'm referring to national-level attitudes, not 328KF as an individual). A confident space-faring nation would tend to take a more inclusive approach. Perhaps this reflects the schism in perception here in the U.S. as to whether our program is "in decline" or simply in "retooling" mode.

On the issue of whether or not to cooperate, political rhetoric about "American exceptionalism" aside, most serious observers have concluded that for various reasons, international space collaboration is the only feasible strategy. Of course, China could be left to work autonomously, but as a rising space power (slow and steady, but advancing nonetheless), that doesn't seem like the wisest approach. In working with them, not only would we learn more of their intentions, but also help shape them to ensure they are aligned with peaceful activities/uses. And cost-sharing of course - at a time when the U.S., Europe, and Japan have more salient budget constraints and trade-offs.

As the saying goes, the best way to turn China into an enemy is to treat them like one.

issman1
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posted 10-03-2011 02:30 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by 328KF:
...what is the advantage to the U.S. and the other ISS partners?
Thankfully, there are now two international space stations in low earth orbit. So it seems other countries have another option if the USA prohibits them from going to ISS, or if it was lost.

Perhaps the Chinese will offer fleeting visits to space tourists, since the no longer "unique, historic" ISS is a no-go zone? In tennis parlance, advantage China.

Robert Pearlman
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posted 10-03-2011 07:04 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by issman1:
Thankfully, there are now two international space stations in low earth orbit.
China has made it clear that Tiangong-1 is neither a space station or international.

Tiangong-1 is the modern-day equivalent of the Agena target vehicle used during the Gemini program. Its primary purpose is teach China how to dock. That it can host experiments and brief crew visits reflects the legacy hardware on which it was based.

SpaceAholic
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posted 10-03-2011 11:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by arjuna:
So I think China has already earned the world's respect, although some individuals seem to be disinclined to acknowledge it.
Chinese modus operandi has been to either borrow or steal the technologies required for their advanced programs. They are not innovators and have demonstrated a propensity for reckless actions in space. Given Chinese activities in Counter-Space it is quite likely an objective of this program is to advance capabilities for military dominance of the space domain (the country is already an adversary in the other four domains - Land, Sea, Air and Cyberspace). They may deserve our respect but not for the reasons you proffer.

dom
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posted 10-03-2011 01:37 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for dom   Click Here to Email dom     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I'm afraid the massive US military budget is on the way to bankrupting America - with a now already obvious effect on its ability to find the money for manned spaceflight.

I personally hope we get to see some interesting Chinese 'space spectaculars' before they too lose interest and run out of money. They are only doing what the USA did during the heady days of the "American Century" - so good luck to them!

arjuna
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posted 10-03-2011 06:16 PM           Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by SpaceAholic:
Chinese modus operandi has been to either borrow or steal the technologies required for their advanced programs. They are not innovators and have demonstrated a propensity for reckless actions in space.
Some of what you say is no doubt true, and as I already implied, I am well aware of China's shortcomings in sci/tech, as well as their aggressive actions in some areas (ASAT test, territorial claims in the S. China sea, hacking, etc.). However, China is a very diverse and complex place with lots of different individual and institutional agendas, and to ascribe such characteristics in such a sweeping way runs the risk of what's known as the fundamental attribution error.

I understand what you mean in saying they are "not innovators". In many respects this is a true statement about their current scientific culture. However, I can assure you they are well aware of their shortcomings in this respect and have targeted it as a priority for improvement. This will be a challenge to be sure, but given how far they have come in such a short period of time - and given their major technological innovations in history (including the rocket, by the way) - I think to bet against their ability to improve in this respect is rather unwise. Clearly, space exploration is one such area they have targeted, and regardless of how many shoulders they may stand on, they deserve respect for their tenacity and the accomplishment.

I suppose it's a matter of attitude. I certainly disagree (strongly) with many Chinese policies and actions, and don't sugar-coat. But I am also confident enough as an American to give credit where it is due. Knee-jerk criticism or denigration of China (which some engage in, although I'm not saying you or others here are) - rather than measured and honest appraisal of their strengths and weaknesses - may feel good and advance certain narrow domestic political agendas, but they don't serve the U.S. national or global interest, and indeed, will backfire.

Jay Chladek
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posted 10-07-2011 07:49 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The main definition I can think of for why this module would be called a space lab as opposed to a station would be that it is a relatively small experimental vehicle. It has some capabilties, but can't necessarily be the primary habitat with its power being the exclusive provider to a crew onboard (with the Shenzou spacecraft in a hybernation state). The term Space Station tends to imply that the station can operate fully independent of another craft, or can act as the primary spacecraft when another vehicle is docked to it (with the other craft shut down).

Granted the name "Skylab" kind of blurred that difference somewhat between a lab and a station since it was more of a station than a laboratory. But, Skylab was also NASA's first pass at an orbiting station and they used it as a laboratory for practically every type of experiment in living and working in space from medical and life sciences, to astronomy studies, to even simple questions about if a space shower would work.

So since Tiangong-1 is essentially China's first pass at a station module, laboratory would work well here as well since it is a place where experiments are being conducted. Dock at least a couple specialized modules together, and then you have the beginnings of a space station I would think. And as Robert has said, right now it is closer to an Agena target vehicle than say an early Salyut.

GACspaceguy
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posted 10-07-2011 08:21 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for GACspaceguy   Click Here to Email GACspaceguy     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Would it be short sighted to say that in today's spaceflight culture an orbiting laboratory is used for intermittent habitation for a few years? A space station is for continuous habitation for long duration five plus years.

issman1
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posted 10-07-2011 08:25 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
However we choose to define Tiangong-1, the fact is ISS is no longer the only destination in low earth orbit for humans. And that's a welcome change.

Jay Chladek
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posted 10-07-2011 07:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by GACspaceguy:
Would it be short sighted to say that in today's spaceflight culture an orbiting laboratory is used for intermittent habitation for a few years? A space station is for continuous habitation for long duration five plus years.

I suppose that is one way to look at it. Of course, the Soviets called their first Salyuts space stations and those were relatively short term occupations. The continuous manning didn't really begin to happen until Salyut 6, 7 and Mir and even then, there were occassional gaps where no crew occupied the station. The ISS is I believe the first station that has stayed manned continuously from Expedition 1 onwards.

The ESA Spacelab and the Spacehab laboratory modules are a bit of a weird placement in the whole definition as they can't fly independently as they needed a shuttle to keep them powered. But when in operation, they essentially turned the shuttle into a short duration space laboratory of sorts. Even the ASTP docking module had some of those attributes as well as it contained some experiment packages that were conducted in orbit after the primary docking mission was concluded and the Soyuz returned home.

SkyMan1958
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posted 10-31-2011 07:26 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SkyMan1958   Click Here to Email SkyMan1958     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The mission, if successful, will make China the third nation to master the technology after the United States and Russia, paving the way for the nation to place a space station into orbit around 2020.
How about the European ATV? Aside from the autonomous aspect of it, wasn't that controlled by ESA/CNES?

issman1
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posted 11-01-2011 12:37 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Technically that is true, although the ATV uses Russian hardware and can only dock with the Russian segment.

I'm curious why ESA officials were on hand to watch the launch of Shenzhou 8. Perhaps they are considering flying one of their own astronauts on a future mission?

SpaceAholic
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posted 11-01-2011 11:17 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Shenzhou 8 is carrying an ESA payload (bio sample)

issman1
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posted 11-01-2011 01:45 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for issman1     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
So what is the Columbus module for? This speaks volumes beyond merely flying a bio sample, and I welcome it.

cspg
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posted 11-02-2011 03:01 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for cspg   Click Here to Email cspg     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Docking took place "at night"- because the Chinese do not want to provide clear pictures of both vehicles?

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-02-2011 03:07 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
According to Chinese officials, the first docking was planned to occur during the night phase of Tiangong-1's orbit to avoid sun glint (the glare from the sun) which could interfere with the rendezvous sensors.

The next docking, which will occur after Shenzhou 8 detaches in 12 days time, will be during the day.

music_space
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posted 11-02-2011 08:11 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for music_space   Click Here to Email music_space     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
I was watching the launch over again. The four strap-on boosters separate but a second before the first stage... I wonder why the strap-ons need to be separated at all then. Any ideas?

On the actual Soyuz launcher, what is the time interval between the two events?

SpaceAholic
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posted 11-02-2011 09:32 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for SpaceAholic   Click Here to Email SpaceAholic     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
A guess... if any of the solids are still burning, separating with asymmetric thrust can result in a non-clean separation (i.e. first stage tumbling into the upper stage nozzle).

jasonelam
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posted 11-02-2011 09:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for jasonelam   Click Here to Email jasonelam     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by music_space:
On the actual Soyuz launcher, what is the time interval between the two events?
The four strap-on boosters separate after 120 seconds, then the core stage burns for an additional 166 seconds.

Jay Chladek
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posted 11-07-2011 10:07 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Jay Chladek   Click Here to Email Jay Chladek     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Robert Pearlman:
According to Chinese officials, the first docking was planned to occur during the night phase of Tiangong-1's orbit to avoid sun glint (the glare from the sun) which could interfere with the rendezvous sensors.
Sun glare can be a big problem for manned craft at least. Stafford mentioned it was tough to see his alignment targets in the COAS on ASTP when they did the first docking with a Soyuz. As such, I am not surprised the Chinese went for a night pass. Besides, it seems as though many of the shuttle ISS dockings tended to occur at night as well (although their approach paths probably negated the problems with sun glint since they were using an R bar approach, where they would come upwards under the station as opposed to coming in from the front or rear).

One thing I notice about the Chinese docking system is it utilizes an androgynous hardware configuration, like the type designed for ASTP and utilized on the US nodes and PMAs of the ISS. The Russians are still using a pin and cone arrangement on their Soyuz docking ports.

Is there a "no earlier than" date for Shenzou 9 to attempt a manned docking mission? Granted I figure the Chinese wish to study the docking sequence and equipment once it returns home, but so far it looks like things are going rather well in orbit.

music_space
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posted 11-14-2011 08:43 PM     Click Here to See the Profile for music_space   Click Here to Email music_space     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
The docking mechanism, composed of up to 10,000 parts...
10,000 mechanical parts, really?

If the Apollo CSM probe-and-docking mechanism would have had that many, Michael Collins would really have had nightmares about it!

Robert Pearlman
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posted 11-17-2011 08:33 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Robert Pearlman   Click Here to Email Robert Pearlman     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
From the landing photos, we can see that Shenzhou 8 flew with a crew of two suited mannequins.

Glint
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posted 11-18-2011 10:12 AM     Click Here to See the Profile for Glint   Click Here to Email Glint     Edit/Delete Message   Reply w/Quote
Does anyone know what time separation occurred?

I observed a passage of Tiangong 1 during several minutes centered at 23:21 UTC Wednesday -- the eve of Thursday morning's landing. Didn't notice any secondary objects that might have been Shenzhou 8 following or preceding it then.

On edit: Answering my own question, for anyone who's interested According to sinodefence.com, undocking occurred Wednesday, Novermber 16 at "10:30 GMT" and landed 25 hours, two minutes later.


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