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China launches Shenzhou 3
Posted: Tue, Mar 26, 2002, 7:30 AM ET (1230 GMT)
Long March 2F launch of Shenzhou 3 (Peoples Daily) After months of anticipation, China launched the third Shenzhou spacecraft, the prototype of a future manned spacecraft, on Monday. Chinese media reported that a Long March 2F booster launched Shenzhou 3 at 9:15 am EST (1415 GMT) from the Jiaquan Satellite Launching Center in northwest China. While the spacecraft is unmanned, it does have dummies on board with instrumentation to measure the effects of the launch and spacecraft conditions on people. The spacecraft's escape system was also tested during the launch, although the details of that escape system were not discussed. The duration of the flight was not released, although Western analysts expect that the descent capsule will return to Earth after about a week, while the separate orbital module may remain in orbit for several months, as was the case with the Shenzhou 2 flight in 2001. The launch had been expected for months; reports out of China indicated that the launch was planned for several months ago but delayed by technical problems encountered while upgrading the design of the spacecraft. A successful flight could pave the way for the first Chinese launch of a manned spacecraft as early as next year.
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