China to launch Shenzhou-16 crewed spaceship today

JIUQUAN-The Shenzhou-16 crewed spaceship is scheduled to be launched at 9:31 a.m. today (Tuesday) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, announced the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) on Monday. The spaceship will carry three astronauts -- Jing Haipeng, Zhu Yangzhu and Gui Haichao -- to carry out the Shenzhou-16 spaceflight mission. Jing will be the commander, said Lin Xiqiang, deputy director of the CMSA, at a press conference.  Shenzhou-16 is the second flight mission of China’s manned space program this year, and the first crewed mission after China’s space station entered the application and development stage. The launch will use a Long March-2F carrier rocket, which will be filled with propellant soon, Lin said.  After entering orbit, the spaceship will perform a fast automated rendezvous and docking with the radial port of the space station core module Tianhe, forming a combination with three modules and three spacecraft, Lin said. The Shenzhou-16 crew will stay in orbit for about five months, and will return to the Dongfeng landing site in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in November this year. During their stay, they will witness the arrival of the Shenzhou-17 crewed spaceship, he said. The space station combination is now in a stable status with all equipment functioning well. Product qualities of the Shenzhou-16 spaceship and the Long March-2F carrier rocket are under control, Lin said. The Shenzhou-16 crew is in good condition, while the ground system facilities are in stable operation, Lin said. All preparations for the launch have been completed, he added.

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