The flight of Shenzhou

Orbital data

This analysis is based on a sorting of available orbital data by Geoff Perry.  He succeeded in determining how Space Command had change catalog numbers and international designators for all the objects resulting from the launch.

The initial orbit of Shenzhou was 196.3-324.4 km at an inclination of 42.6 degrees. The perigee only changed a few hundred meters during the flight and apogee showed a change consistent with drag decay (see figure below).


Identity of the Orbital Module

Geoff Perry also helped me figure out the first elset for the orbital module. I ran a relative motion analysis between the last elset of the main object and the orbital module, using the elsets below.
1 25956U 99061A   99324.73202354  .01045460  84003-5  76811-3 0    71
2 25956  42.5961  22.2926 0094761 133.8331 227.0262 16.05228478   103
1 25960U 99061E   99325.16740673  .00995739  84110-5  69975-3 0    13
2 25960  42.5954  19.5106 0092543 136.8558 223.9630 16.06152554    1

The resulting relative motion plot below shows that these two objects were very close during the period 1700-2000 UT, showing that they had been joined.


Location of tracking ships and stations

The map from Chinese television and published at the "Dragon in Space" site seems to indicate the location of the four Yuanwang tracking ships. In addition the official Chinese account of the flight mentions that the Yuanwang-3 ships picked up the signal at 1849 UT, then commanded retrofire, and lost the signal at 1858 UT on 20 November 1999. The same account says that Yuanwang-4 was in the Indian Ocean. This agrees well with a position at approximately 25 S, 9 E. The map below show what I think are the locations of the ships. The CCTV picture of the map in the Beijing control room also seems to show additional stations in western China, but it is hard to be sure. However, today's (Nov 23, 1999) addition to Chen Lan's site shows the Beijing control room map with a station in Western China, one in Pakistan (?) and one in the south of Africa.


Launch and recovery ground tracks

The map below shows the ground track at launch and recovery.


A surprising picture

The somewhat surprising picture below was shown on the Dragon in Space Site. Transporting the spacecraft in the open - even if covered by thermal blankets?? Well, I have some knowledge of the environment out there. When we launched the Freja scientific satellite from JSLC we measured the air quality. On ground level on a windy day the particle count was 1 million (corresponding to Class 1 000 000 in space parlance). On the top platform of the gantry tower the same day we had a particle count of 1000 - i.e. clean room conditions. The ground at JSLC is not not loose sand as on a beach, rather like a gravel road. So, transporting the bird like this is not totally unrealistic!

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