• Crewed Flights

The Chinese Space Station Hosts Six Astronauts

Published on 30 November 2022

Leaving the Jiuquan space centre on November 29, Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu reached the CSS (China Space Station) a few hours later to take over from Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe up there for almost six months.

The Chinese Space Station Hosts Six Astronauts

On November 29, a CZ-2F launcher left the Jiuquan Space Center in the Gobi Desert to put the Chinese three-seat Shenzhou-15 into orbit. A few hours later it successfully docked with the China Space Station or CSS.

From Shenzhou-14 to Shenzhou-15

The Shenzhou-15 crew comprised Fei Junlong (commander), Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu. All three are Chinese military pilots like their Shenzhou-14 colleagues, Chen Dong (commander), Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe.

The Shenzhou-14 trio arrived on board the CSS almost six months ago on June 5, 2022. During their mission, the station, which consisted only of the Tianhe central body, was considerably enlarged with the docking of the scientific modules Wentian (in July) and Mengtian (in October).

The Shenzhou-15 trio, who will also be the new resident crew of the CSS for the next six months. From left to right: Fei Junlong (commander), Zhang Lu and Deng Qingming.
© Cité de l’espace after CNSA/CMSE

On board the Chinese station, the astronauts from Shenzhou-14 and 15 met for a few days to complete the handover from one crew to another.

Shenzhou-15 arriving there before the departure of Shenzhou-14 (successfully accomplished on December 4), China has now performs for its station what is called a “warm handover,” comparable to what happens on the ISS, avoiding the orbital complex being uncrewed at any time (which the CSS, however, can do and has already done for previous flights Shenzhou-12 to 13, then from 13 to 14).
Launched at the end of April 2021, the Chinese station is entering an operational phase with its two laboratory modules. China has also officially invited countries which so wish to entrust it with experiments that will be carried out in orbit. Flights with astronauts from friendly nations are also part of the plans in addition to an increasingly bold lunar ambition (robotic and crewed).

Above is a video summary of the arrival of Shenzhou-15 at the CSS by the Chinese channel CGTN.

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