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More details about Shenzhou-2 emerge
Posted: Sun, Jan 14, 2001, 6:54 PM ET (2354 GMT)
Shenzhou illustration by Simon Zajc Five days after its launch, more details about China's Shenzhou-2 spacecraft and its mission have been revealed. Chinese officials say the spacecraft will remain in orbit for a week, and a separate orbital module will stay in space an additional six months to perform scientific experiments. The spacecraft has already maneuvered twice: from its original 197 x 333 km orbit to a more circular 329 x 334 km orbit on January 10; a second maneuver two days later put Shenzhou-2 into a 331 x 340 km orbit. The spacecraft's payload of experiments ranges from astrophysical instruments to protein crystal growth to biological tests on 19 animal and plant species, according to the Go Taikonauts web site. The launch also has increased speculation about China's eventual plans to send people into space. In an article published on SpaceDaily.com, Morris Jones suggested the Shenzhou 2 launch was bundled as part of a package that included other navigation, communication, or remote sensing spacecraft in order to win approval from Chinese government officials. Others, noting the more than one year delay between Shenzhou-1 and -2, suggest that the program may be underfunded and may even partially rely on revenue from commercial launches of Western satellites. Chinese officials are hinting that a third flight, presumably also unpiloted, will take place late this year.
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