China Manned Space Program
|Organization||China Manned Space Agency|
|Duration||21 September 1992–present|
|First flight||Shenzhou 1|
20 November 1999
|First crewed flight||Shenzhou 5|
15 October 2003
|Last flight||Shenzhou 13|
15 October 2021
|Launch site(s)||Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center|
Wenchang Space Launch Site
|Uncrewed vehicle(s)||Tianzhou cargo spacecraft|
|Crewed vehicle(s)||Shenzhou spacecraft|
|Launch vehicle(s)||Long March 2F|
Long March 7
Long March 5B
The China Manned Space Program (abbreviation: CMS; Chinese: 中国载人航天工程; pinyin: Zhōngguó Zàirén Hángtiān Gōngchéng), also known as Project 921 (Chinese: 九二一工程; pinyin: Jiǔèryī Gōngchéng), is a space program developed by China and run by the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), designed to develop and enhance human spaceflight capabilities for China. It was approved on 21 September 1992 and been in operation ever since.
As one of the most complex space programs in the history of China, CMS is split into "three steps", or three phases, which can be summarized as:
- Crewed spacecraft launch and return.
- Space laboratory with capabilities of extravehicular activities, space rendezvous and spacecraft docking procedures.
- Long term space station.
As of September 2021[update], China has successfully completed the first two steps, which made China the third nation to master human spaceflight after the Soviet Union/Russia and the United States. The Third Step – the construction of Tiangong space station, is ongoing. Ever since the first spacecraft was launched in 1999, CMS has successfully completed 18 missions, without any astronaut fatality.
The formal research of China's human spaceflight began in 1968. An institute for medical and space engineering was founded in Beijing. It was the predecessor of China Astronaut Research and Training Center, at which China's astronauts are trained in the following decades. Before that, in 1964, China launched a sounding rocket, carrying several small animals to an altitude of 70 km as an attempt to study the effects of spaceflight on living creatures.
On 24 April 1970, China launched its first satellite, Dong Fang Hong I into orbit. In 1970, Qian Xuesen, the father of China's space program, introduced his human spaceflight project, which was later called Project 714. An early version of crewed spacecraft called Shuguang I was under research. However, this program was cancelled due to lack of funds and political interest. Instead, China decided in 1978 to pursue a method of sending astronauts into space using the more familiar FSW-derived ballistic reentry capsules. Two years later. in 1980, the Chinese government cancelled the program citing cost concerns.
In order to gain relative experience, China launched and recover the first Fanhui Shi Weixing, a recoverable satellite, on 26 November 1975. The success of the mission demonstrated China's capabilities of controlled atmospheric entry.
In 1986, the 863 Program was funded by the Chinese government. It was intended to stimulate the development of science and technologies in several key areas, in which space capabilities were included.
The Chinese human spaceflight program, namely the China Manned Space Program, was formally approved on September 21 1992 by the Standing Committee of Politburo as Project 921, with work beginning on 1 January 1993. The initial plan has three steps:
- First Step: Launch a manned spaceship with the aim of building up the fundamental capability in human space exploration and space experiments.
- Second Step: Launch a space laboratory tasked with making technological breakthroughs for extravehicular activities, space rendezvous and spacecraft docking procedures, as well as providing a solution for man-tended space utilization on a certain scale and short-term basis.
- Third Step: Establish a Space Station with the aim providing a solution for man-tended -space utilization on a larger scale and longer-term basis.
The program is lead by a chief commander and a chief designer, who handle administrative and technical issues respectively. A joint meeting between these two is responsible for making decisions on important issues during the implementation of the project. The first chief designer of the program was Wang Yongzhi. A new organization, China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), was founded for the administration of the program.
The development of Long March 2F, China's first human-rated launch vehicle, began in September 1992. It was derived from the Long March 2E, but with a launch escape system and control system redundancy.
On December 1994, the first hot test fire of human-rated rocket's engine was completed successfully.
In 1996 two pilots from the Air Force, Wu Jie and Li Qinglong, were handpicked and sent to Russia for training at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonaut Training Centre.
In January 1998, 14 pilots were selected as the first batch of Chinese astronaut candidates.
In November 1998, a new flight control center, Beijing Aerospace Flight Control Center, was opened to support CMS missions. Also in that year, a new launch complex adapting the advanced "three verticals" (vertical assembly, vertical testing and vertical transport) strategy was put into service in Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center to support CMS missions exclusively.
On 20 November 1999, Shenzhou 1, the first uncrewed Shenzhou spacecraft, was launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and entered predetermined orbit. The ground electrical test model was used during this test flight to meet the deadline by the end of 1999. The return capsule of the spacecraft successfully separated with other parts and landed intact in Inner Mongolia the next day. Despite only limited systems being tested, the mission was still a successful test flight for the Shenzhou spacecraft and Long March 2F rocket.
The second test flight of Shenzhou occurred on 10 January 2001. Shenzhou 2, the first formal unmanned spaceship of China, was launched into orbit and stayed for seven days before the return capsule separated and performed a safe landing. 
The fifth launch, Shenzhou 5, was the first to carry a human (Yang Liwei) and occurred at 01:00:00 UTC on 15 October 2003. At 587 seconds after taking-off, the spaceship separated from the rocket and entered an elliptical orbit with inclination of 42.4°, the perigee height of 199.14 km and the apogee height of 347.8 km. Yang became the first Chinese launched into space with Chinese launch vehicle and spacecraft. At 22:23 UTC on 15 October 2003, the re-entry module landed safely on central Inner Mongolia. The whole mission lasted for 21 hours and 23 minutes, making China the third country capable of sending human to space and back independently, after Russia and the United States.
The goal of the Second Step of CMS was to make technology breakthroughs in extravehicular activities (EVA) as well as space rendezvous and docking to support short-term human activities in space. To complete the goal, China launched multiple crewed and uncrewed missions, including two prototypes of China's space station.
Phase 1: EVA, space rendezvous and docking
The first "multi-person and multi-day" manned space flight, Shenzhou 6, was conducted during 12-17 October 2005. Astronauts Fei Junlong and Nie Haisheng spent more than 4 days in space and orbited the Earth for 76 orbits. 
On 25 September 2008, Shenzhou 7 was launched into space with three astronauts, Zhai Zhigang, Liu Boming and Jing Haipeng. During the flight, Zhai Zhigang and Liu Boming completed China's first EVA with the Feitian extravehicular space suit made in China and the Sea Hawk extravehicular space suit imported from Russia respectively.
In order to practice space rendezvous and docking, China launched an 8,000 kg (18,000 lb) target vehicle, Tiangong 1, in 2011 with a variant of Long March 2F, followed by Shenzhou 8, the first uncrewed Shenzhou spacecraft since Shenzhou 5. The two spacecraft performed China's first automatic rendezvous and docking on 3 November 2011, which verified the performance of docking procedures and mechanisms. About 9 months later, Tiangong 1 completed the first manual rendezvous and docking with Shenzhou 9, a crewed spacecraft carrying Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and China's first female astronaut Liu Yang.
On 11 June 2013, crewed spacecraft Shenzhou 10 carrying astronauts Nie Haisheng, Zhang Xiaoguang and Wang Yaping was launched into orbit and docked with Tiangong 1. The three astronauts spent 12 days in Tiangong 1 by conducting scientific experiments, giving lectures to over 60 million students in China, and performing more docking tests before returning to Earth safely. The completion of the missions from Shenzhou 6 to Shenzhou 10 demonstrated China's technical advancement in human spaceflight, ending phase 1 of the Second Step.
Phase 2: Space laboratory
To further enhance China's human spaceflight capabilities and make preparation for the construction of future space station, China launched the second phase of the Second Step, which consisted of four space laboratory missions.
In June 2016, China conducted the maiden flight of Long March 7, a new generation medium-lift launch vehicle with higher payload capability to low Earth orbit, from the newly built Wenchang Space Launch Site located in the coastal Hainan Province.
In September 2016, Tiangong 2 was launched into the orbit. It was a space laboratory with more advanced functions and equipment than Tiangong 1. A month later, Shenzhou 11 was launched and docked with Tiangong 2. Two astronauts, Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong entered Tiangong 2 and stationed for about 30 days, breaking China's record of longest human spaceflight mission while verifying the viability of astronauts' medium-term stay in space.
In April 2017, China's first cargo spacecraft, Tianzhou 1 docked with Tiangong 2 and completed multiple in-orbit propellant refueling tests, which marked the successful completion of the Second Step of CMS.
On 5 May 2020, China successfully launched the maiden flight of Long March 5B, whose payload capability is greater than 22,000 kg (49,000 lb), allowing China to put a large space station module into low Earth orbit. The mission inaugurated the Third Step of CMS.
Phase 1: demonstration of key technologies (underway)
On 29 April 2021, the second Long March 5B rocket lifted off from Wenchang, carrying the 22,500 kg (49,600 lb) Tianhe core module, the largest and most complex spacecraft independently developed by China. The core module entered the predetermined orbit about 494 seconds after launch, marking the start of the in-orbit construction of China's space station.
On 29 May 2021, Tianzhou 2, the first cargo spacecraft to the space station, was launched by a Long March 7 rocket and docked with Tianhe core module 8 hours later. The shipment included astronaut supplies, space station equipment, extravehicular space suits and propellant.
The first crewed mission to Tianhe, Shenzhou 12, was launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on 17 June 2021. The spacecraft conducted China's first crewed autonomous rapid rendezvous and docking 6 hours 32 minutes after launch. Three crew members, Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo, became the first inhabitants of Tiangong Space Station.
At 00:11 UTC on 4 July 2021, two of the Shenzhou 12 crew members, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo, conducted the first EVA on the space station, which lasted for 6 hours 46 minutes, breaking the previous 20-minute EVA record made during Shenzhou 7 mission in 2008 by a huge margin.
The Shenzhou 12 crew returned to Earth safely on 17 September 2021.
On 15 October 2021, Shenzhou 13 was launched and docked to Tianhe core module 6.5 hours later. The crew, including Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu, planned to complete a six-month stay, the longest one since the beginning of the program. About three weeks later, Zhai Zhigang and Wang Yaping completed the crew's first EVA on 7 November 2021, making Wang the first Chinese female astronaut to perform an EVA.
Phase 2: assembly and construction (upcoming)
Following the conclusion of phase 1, 6 more missions will be conducted to implement phase 2, including launches of 2 laboratory modules of Tiangong, 2 cargo spacecraft and 2 crewed spacecraft. All these missions are scheduled to be carried out by the end of 2022.
Once the construction is completed, Tiangong Space Station will enter the application and development phase in 2023, which is poised to last for no less than 10 years and could even be extended to 15 years
The 14 systems and their main objectives are:
Ensuring the health and performance of astronauts during long term space flight
Space Application System
Making use of the on-board application support capacity to enable space science experiments and investigations.
Manned Spacecraft System
Development of Shenzhou series manned spacecraft used for transporting human into space and back.
Space Laboratory System
Long March 2F
Development of Long March 2F, the human-rated carrier rocket used to launch Shenzhou spacecraft and space laboratories.
Long March 7
Long March 5B
Development of Long March 5B carrier rocket, which is responsible for carrying space station modules for the construction of Tiangong Space Station.
Jiuquan Launch Center
Carrying out launch missions for manned spaceship and space laboratory.
Wenchang Space Launch Site
Carrying out the launching of Tiangong space station modules and Tianzhou cargo spaceships.
TT&C and Communications System
Measuring, monitoring and controlling the flight path, altitude and operating status of the rockets and spacecraft, providing channels for video and voice communications with the astronauts and sending scientific data back to Earth.
Landing Site System
Tracking, searching and locating the landed re-entry capsules, rescuing the astronauts and refurbishing and recycling the re-entry capsules and payloads.
Manned Space Station
Development and building of China's Tiangong Space Station
Cargo Vehicle System
Research and development of Tianzhou cargo vehicle.
Research and development of optical facilities and optical platforms.
- Mission types：
The list below includes all missions operated by CMS, including crewed and uncrewed spacecraft, cargo spaceships, launch vehicle test flights and space station modules.
|Mission||Launch||Launch Vehicle||Launch Site||Duration||Landing/Re-entry||Landing/Re-entry
|↓ First Step ↓|
|1||Shenzhou 1||19 Nov 1999||Long March 2F||Jiuquan||21 h 11 m||20 Nov 1999||Dorbod Banner||(uncrewed)||Success||First mission of CMS. Uncrewed test flight of Shenzhou spacecraft and Long March 2F rocket.|
|2||Shenzhou 2||9 Jan 2001||Long March 2F||Jiuquan||7 d 10 h 22 m||16 Jan 2001||Dorbod Banner||(uncrewed)||Partial success||Carried scientific payload including monkey, dog, rabbit and other animals.|
|3||Shenzhou 3||25 Mar 2002||Long March 2F||Jiuquan||6 d 18 h 51 m||1 Apr 2002||Dorbod Banner||(uncrewed)||Success||Carried a test dummy.|
|4||Shenzhou 4||29 Dec 2002||Long March 2F||Jiuquan||6 d 18 h 36 m||5 Jan 2003||Dorbod Banner||(uncrewed)||Success||Carried 2 test dummies and several science experiments.|
|5||Shenzhou 5||15 Oct 2003||Long March 2F||Jiuquan||21 h 22 m 45 s||15 Oct 2003||Dorbod Banner||Yang Liwei||Success||First crewed spaceflight of China, orbited Earth for 14 circles, made China the third country with independent human spaceflight capability after Russia and the U.S.|
|↓ Second Step, phase 1 ↓|
|6||Shenzhou 6||12 Oct 2005||Long March 2F||Jiuquan||4 d 19 h 33 m||16 Oct 2005||Dorbod Banner|| Fei Junlong
|Success||Multiple days in space, 75 orbits.|
|7||Shenzhou 7||25 Sep 2008||Long March 2F||Jiuquan||2 d 20 h 27 m||28 Sep 2008||Dorbod Banner|| Zhai Zhigang
|Success||First three-person crew, first Chinese spacewalk.|
|8||Tiangong 1||29 Sep 2011||Long March 2F||Jiuquan||—||2 Apr 2018||Southern Pacific||(uncrewed)||Success||Target vehicle for space rendezvous and docking testing.|
|9||Shenzhou 8||31 Oct 2011||Long March 2F||Jiuquan||16 d 13 h 34 m||17 Nov 2011||Dorbod Banner||(uncrewed)||Success||Uncrewed mission, completed China's first space rendezvous and docking with Tiangong-1.|
|10||Shenzhou 9||16 Jun 2012||Long March 2F||Jiuquan||12 d 15 h 24 m||29 Jun 2012||Dorbod Banner|| Jing Haipeng
|Success||First Chinese woman in space; first repeated flight; first crewed docking with Tiangong-1.|
|11||Shenzhou 10||11 Jun 2013||Long March 2F||Jiuquan||14 d 14 h 29 m||26 Jun 2013||Dorbod Banner|| Nie Haisheng
|Success||Second Chinese woman in space, second crewed docking with Tiangong-1.|
|↓ Second Step, phase 2 ↓|
|12||Long March 7
|25 Jun 2016||Long March 7||Wenchang||—||26 Jun 2016||Jiuquan||(uncrewed)||Success||Long March 7 test flight carrying scaled model of next-generation crewed spacecraft.|
|13||Tiangong 2||15 Sep 2016||Long March 2F||Jiuquan||—||19 Jul 2019||Southern Pacific||(uncrewed)||Success||Space laboratory with rich equipment, capable of in-orbit refueling and supporting mid-term spaceflight.|
|14||Shenzhou 11||17 Oct 2016||Long March 2F||Jiuquan||32 d 06 h 29 m||18 Nov 2016||Dorbod Banner|| Jing Haipeng
|Success||First and only crewed docking with Tiangong-2, crew set record for longest Chinese crewed spaceflight prior to the Third Step.|
|15||Tianzhou 1||20 Apr 2017||Long March 7||Wenchang||—||22 Sep 2017||(burnt up in atmosphere)||(uncrewed)||Success||First cargo spacecraft, completed in-orbit propellant refueling tests.|
|↓ Third Step, phase 1 ↓|
|16||Long March 5B
|5 May 2020||Long March 5B||Wenchang||—||8 May 2020||Jiuquan||(uncrewed)||Success||Long March 5B test flight carrying test vehicle of next-generation crewed spacecraft.|
|29 Apr 2021||Long March 5B||Wenchang||—||—||—||(uncrewed)||Success||First module of Tiangong Space Station being launched into orbit.|
|18||Tianzhou 2||29 May 2021||Long March 7||Wenchang||—||—||—||(uncrewed)||Ongoing||First cargo spacecraft to the space station.|
|19||Shenzhou 12||17 Jun 2021||Long March 2F||Jiuquan||92 d 04 h 11 m||17 Sep 2021||Jiuquan|| Nie Haisheng
|Success||First crewed mission to dock with the Tianhe Core Module to begin construction of the Tiangong space station.|
|20||Tianzhou 3||20 Sep 2021||Long March 7||Wenchang||—||—||—||(uncrewed)||Ongoing||Second cargo spacecraft to the space station.|
|21||Shenzhou 13||15 Oct 2021||Long March 2F||Jiuquan||~6 months||April 2022 (planned)||Jiuquan|| Zhai Zhigang
|Ongoing||Second crewed mission to the space station to continue its construction.|
|Launch Vehicle||Launch Site||Duration||Landing/Re-entry||Landing/Re-entry
|↓ Third Step, phase 2 ↓|
|22||Tianzhou 4||Mar - Apr 2022||Long March 7||Wenchang||—||—||—||(uncrewed)||Third cargo spacecraft to the space station.|
|23||Shenzhou 14||May 2022||Long March 2F||Jiuquan||~6 months||—||Jiuquan||(TBA)||Third crewed mission to the space station to continue its construction.|
Laboratory Cabin Module
|May - Jun 2022||Long March 5B||Wenchang||—||—||—||(uncrewed)||Laboratory Cabin Module I of the Tiangong Space Station.|
Laboratory Cabin Module
|Aug - Sep 2022||Long March 5B||Wenchang||—||—||—||(uncrewed)||Laboratory Cabin Module II of the Tiangong Space Station.|
|26||Tianzhou 5||Oct 2022||Long March 7||Wenchang||—||—||—||(uncrewed)||Fourth cargo spacecraft to the space station.|
|27||Shenzhou 15||Nov 2022||Long March 2F||Jiuquan||~6 months||—||Jiuquan||(TBA)||Fourth crewed mission to the space station for its final stage of construction.|
November 1996 trainer selection
There were two astronaut trainers selected for Project 921. They trained at the Yuri Gagarin Cosmonauts Training Center in Russia.
- Li Qinglong – born August 1962 in Dingyuan, Anhui Province and PLAAF interceptor pilot and space instructor at Star City
- Wu Jie – born October 1963 in Zhengzhou, Henan Province and PLAAF fighter pilot
January 1998 astronaut candidate selection
- Chen Quan – PLAAF pilot
- Deng Qingming – from Jiangxi Province and PLAAF pilot, back up on Shenzhou 11
- Fei Junlong – second Chinese astronaut, commander of Shenzhou 6
- Jing Haipeng – born October 1966 and PLAAF pilot, astronaut of Shenzhou 7, Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 11
- Liu Boming – born September 1966 and PLAAF pilot, astronaut of Shenzhou 7 and Shenzhou 12
- Liu Wang – born in Shanxi Province and PLAAF pilot, flew on Shenzhou 9
- Nie Haisheng – back up in Shenzhou 5, flight engineer on Shenzhou 6, commander of Shenzhou 10 and Shenzhou 12
- Pan Zhanchun – PLAAF pilot
- Yang Liwei – first man sent into space by the space program of China on Shenzhou 5, made the PRC the third country to independently send people into space
- Zhai Zhigang – back up in Shenzhou 5, commander of Shenzhou 7 and Shenzhou 13
- Zhang Xiaoguang – born in Liaoning Province and PLAAF pilot, flew on Shenzhou 10
- Zhao Chuandong – PLAAF pilot
2010 astronaut candidate selection
- Cai Xuzhe
- Chen Dong – flew on Shenzhou 11
- Liu Yang – first Chinese woman into space, flew on Shenzhou 9
- Tang Hongbo – back up on Shenzhou 11, flew on Shenzhou 12
- Wang Yaping – second Chinese woman into space, flew on Shenzhou 10 and Shenzhou 13
- Ye Guangfu – back up on Shenzhou 12, flew on Shenzhou 13
- Zhang Lu
2020 astronaut candidate selection
18 people - 17 men, 1 woman, all of whose names were not revealed - had been selected as new astronauts. The positions were broken down as 7 spacecraft pilots ("aviators of the People's Liberation Army Air Force"), 7 flight engineers ("former researchers or technicians in aeronautics, astronautics and other related fields"), and 4 mission payload specialists ("those involved in space science and through applications for China's manned space program").
In 2016, China Manned Space Agency (CMSA) signed a Framework Agreement and a Funding Agreement with the United Nations Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) to increase cooperation on future Chinese space station.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Shenzhou.|
- Flickr: Photos tagged with shenzhou, photos likely relating to Shenzhou spacecraft