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China Successfully Launches First Experimental Spacecraft

Press Release From: Xinhua News Agency
Posted: Sunday, November 21, 1999

BEIJING, November 21 (Xinhua) -- China's first experimental spacecraft, part of the country's manned space flight program, touched down in the central Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region in north China at 3:41 a.m. (Beijing time) today, successfully concluding the first flight of the system.

As another milestone in China's astronautical history, the successful launching and retrieval of the spaceship marks the country's new major breakthrough in manned space flight technology.

The Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, the State Council and the Central Military Commission have sent a message of congratulations on this event.

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.

Ten minutes after takeoff, the spaceship detached itself from its launching vehicle and entered its preset orbit.

The Spacecraft and carrier rocket were made by China itself. And the experimental flight was unmanned this time.

According to technical staff working at the launch site, the satellite launch center for the first time completed at its technological workshop the general assembly in a vertical way and tests of the combined body of the space aircraft and booster rockets.

The center also transported the combined body of the space aircraft and booster rockets to the launching site vertically and used the technology of long-distance monitoring and control of the launching.

China has built a new land-sea based space monitoring and control network which meets international standards and put it into operation in this first experimental launch.

During the spacecraft's flight in orbit, it was traced, monitored and controlled by ground monitoring and controlling system and four surveying ships, named "Yuan Wang," stationed at high seas. They successfully conducted a series of scientific experiments.

Officials with the organization work said that China started to implement the manned space flight program in 1992. He described the program as a huge system that embodies great cooperation between various trades of the country. The success was a major step toward China's manned space flight cause.

The spacecraft was developed and manufactured mainly by the China Research Institute of Carrier Rocket Technology under the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the Chinese Research Institute of Space Technology and Shanghai Research Institute of Astronautical Technology.

The Beijing Aerospace Directing and Controlling Center organized the tracing, surveying and controlling of the test launch. Relevant departments of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Ministry of Information Industry took part in the designing, manufacturing and testing in the project.

This was the 59th launch of the "Long March" carrier rocket series, and its 17th successful launch in a row in the recent three years.

Manned space flight technology is the most difficult one in the aerospace area. In the past, the United States and Russia were the only countries that had this technology.

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