Shenzhou-9 has entered the final phase of preparation for a June 16 launch after successfully completing a full system test on June 13. “The drill’s results met our expectations”, said Niu Hongguang, China’s manned space program commander in chief, to the Xinhua news agency. The spacecraft also has a crew – finally announced on June 15 after months of speculation.
The system test, which lasted for four and a half hours, covered the spacecraft and all other elements involved in the mission, such as the Long March launcher, the launch tower and control centre, marking a critical step in the path towards launch. With the achievement of this milestone and the successful completion of launcher fueling, the focus now shifts to the weather at and around the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center from which Shenzhou-9 will launch. Earlier concerns of adverse weather conditions such as thunder and high temperatures, which can delay the launch, are starting to go away as forecasts for the launch day improve.
The mission is scheduled for launch on June 16 at around 10:30 GMT, with a planned duration of 13 days, 10 of which it will spend docked to the Tiangong-1 space station module. It will mark China’s first manned space docking and its first woman in space – Major Liu Yang. Yang, a 34 year-old People’s Liberation Army Air Force pilot from China’s first group of female taikonauts will be joined by air force colleagues – colonels Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang.
In preparation for the mission, the orbit of the Tiangong-1 module, with which Shenzhou will dock, has been lowered. The mission is planned to be followed by Shenzhou 10 where another crew will be docking with Tiangong-1, sometime in 2012.
This CNTV reports on the final preparations for Shenzhou-9’s mission: