China completes successful unmanned test of manned spacecraft

China launched a satellite on Saturday as part of preparations for its widely anticipated manned space program. The vehicle was successfully recovered on Sunday. According to statements issued by the official Chinese News agency, Xinhua, "The space vehicle, named "Shenzhou" by President Jiang Zemin, was launched with a new model of "Long March" rocket at 6:30 a.m. (Beijing time) on November 20 at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China's Gansu Province." Shenzhou "touched down in the central Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in north China at 3:41 a.m. (Beijing time) today [21 Nov] , successfully concluding the first flight of the system."

As you may recall, on 3 November 1999, SpaceRef reported the remarks made at the International Space Business Assembly in Washington D.C. by Luo Ge, Director General of Foreign Affairs of the China National Space Administration. Luo Ge was asked "Is China's manned spacecraft based upon Russia's Soyuz spacecraft?" He was less than forthcoming in his answer.

° Full story on Luo Ge's remarks, NASA Watch

° "China Successfully Launches First Experimental Spacecraft" and "Top Chinese Authorities Commend Successful Experiment of First Spaceflight", press releases from the Xinhua news agency

° "Chinese Launch May Be Test of Manned Spacecraft", SpaceViews

° Be certain to visit the Shenzhou page which contains the web's most authoritative description of China's manned space program, at the Encyclopedia Astronautica. (note the near identical similarity between the launch image released today by China and the detailed images posted on this website several months ago.)

° "Go Taikonauts!" also has some interesting and up to date information.


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