The flight of Shenzhou-2

Notes by Sven Grahn


Launch and initial orbit

Shenzhou-2 was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi desert at about 1700:03 UT on 9 January 2001. (See map below). The initial orbit of was 196.5-333.8 km.

Maneuver summary

 At about 1325 UT on 10 January the orbit was changed to 327.7-332.7 km (nodal period = 91.041 min) - see picture below. At about 1220 UT on 12 January a small "tweak" burn took place to achieve an orbit at 329.3-339.4 km (nodal period = 91.126 min). A third burn took place on 15 January 2001. This burn raised the orbit to a period of 91.181 minutes (328.7-345.4 km).

Repeating ground track

At the 42.6 degree inclination of Shenzhou-2 the orbital period 91.103 minutes leads to a ground track that repeats every 31 orbits. The maneuver took place on a pass that is identical to that of the landing orbit of Shenzhou-1. Therefore,  every two days (31 orbits) Shenzhou-2 will pass along the same ground track that Shenzhou-1 used to land. Thus, we may assume that the flight will last an odd number of days (this turned out to be true since the craft landed after almost 7 days).

Maneuver locations

Interestingly, the first maneuver took place exactly on top of one of the locations for a tracking ship during the flight of Shenzhou-1. (See map below.

The second maneuver also took place near this point, actually just before the craft appeared above the horizon of the tracking ship (if it was at the same place as during the flight of Shenzhou-1). The third maneuver, the day before landing, probably took place on a pass over the same tracking ship - at about 1015 UT.

The landing orbit

The landing orbit is shown in the figure below. The exact landing spot is unknown, but as in the case of Shenzhou-1 the craft passed directly over the JSLC launch site before touchdown in Inner Mongolia.

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