First Step Manned Space Utilization

Approved in 1992, China Manned Space Program has gone through hardships and achieved notable success in the past sixteen years. Every launch of the program arouses extensive attention both at home and abroad. It has become an important event enough to make Chinese proud. The manned space program shows the achievements of China in its space technology. What’s more, it fully demonstrates China’s new contribution to the peaceful use of space and the promotion of the development of advanced science and technology through its aerospace utilization achievements.

Conducting research on space science and technology has always been one of the primary missions of China Manned Space Program. The space utilization system is one of the eight systems, and is taken charge of by Chinese Academy of Science (CAS). In the flight tests of Shenzhou I to Shenzhou VI, over 50 units affiliated or not affiliated with CAS undertook the utilization task; implemented 28 missions and plans in space to earth remote sensing, space astro-observation, earth environment monitoring, space life science and space material science, space environment monitoring and prediction research, etc.; completed the development of 201 (excluding spares) new payloads, with 259 products participating in the space experiments of the six spacecrafts; built the Payload Integration Testing Center, the Payload Application Center and the Space Environment Prediction Center; conducted scientific research on 67 subjects; overcame more than 70 key technology; created over 100 new technique and methods with proprietary intellectual property rights; and achieved success in all application tests of the six spacecrafts. According to incomplete statistics, about 110 technological achievements have obtained national patents; 64 awards of national level, provincial and ministerial level were granted; 32 units and 68 staff won the national grand prize, May 1st Labour Medal, Qiushi Awards, and Hin-chi Tsang Awards. From 1995 to 2006, over 1000 papers were published in periodicals at home and abroad, and more than 200 of these papers are included in SCI. Some of these achievements need to be stressed:

1.      In Shenzhou II Spacecraft, wide spectrum covered space astronomy detector system, which consists of χ-ray detector, super soft χ-ray detector, and γ-ray detector, detected γ-ray burst (GRB) and monitored solar flare high-energy radiation at the same time. By comparison with global GRB joint observation network data, it can be confirmed that over 30 GRB and more than 100 solar hard X-ray burst were detected. Therefore, China’s research in this filed has reached international advanced level, and is acclaimed by international counterparts.

2.      In Shenzhou III Spacecraft, the earth environment monitoring system, which consists of solar constant monitor, ultraviolet spectrum monitor, and earth radiation measurement (ERM), has in-orbit quantitative monitoring on global environmental change, obtaining solar ultraviolet spectrogram, back scattering spectrogram of earth atmosphere to solar ultraviolet radiation, and complete data of earth infrared and visible radiant flux as they changed over time. Evaluation of the detection results demonstrate that China’s relevant detection methods have reached a level comparable with the absolute accuracy of international similar detections. The solar constant monitor independently developed in China has been listed by the World Radiation Center (WRC) as standard equipment for comparison, offering opportunities for relevant research to reach international advanced level.

3.      The imaging spectrometer in Shenzhou III Spacecraft is one of the few world advanced moderate resolution imaging spectrometers entering the space. In the lifetime of the spacecraft, the spectrometer had been functioned properly and gained a large number of remote sensing information. Judging from the 863 image products exhibited, its image quality has reached the anticipated target. This symbolizes China ranks into the world advanced level in this field.

4.      The multimode microwave remote sensor in Shenzhou IV Spacecraft is the first trying of space microwave remote sensing test, and also a significant breakthrough in the field. New theories, methods and technique are adopted in its system theory and design. Among them, pencil beam conically scanning scatterometry scheme makes China the first country to develop this system. Technologies such as four band (from centimeter waves to millimeter waves) sharing antenna-feeder, feed source in wide frequency band as well as offset feed paraboloid design, wave separator, and polarization separator rank the leading level in China, and these technologies are also international advanced. In space experiments, abundant high modes, radiation modes, scattering modes data have been obtained. Relevant departments carried out experimental application and spoke very high of it.

5.      The application research of earth observation remote sensor conducted in Shenzhou V and VI spacecrafts is a significant breakthrough, greatly improving China’s information acquisition technique and application technique in relevant fields.

6.      The scientific experiment on space life and microgravity is the first time that China carried out planned space microgravity research activity.

1) In space life science and biotechnology, 5 sets of advanced space experimental equipments were developed, and research on 16 subjects was conducted. In experimental equipment design and scientific research, 12 key techniques were overcome. 17 experimental researches on space biological effect were carried out. Covering animal, plant, microorganism, aquatic organism, and from cell, tissue to biont and species group, the experiments include space protein crystallization of 32 kinds of samples, culture of 4 kinds of cells, 2 cell fusion, etc. These experiments have achieved important research results, and improved China’s experimental ability and research level in systematically developing research on space life and biotechnology.

2) In microgravity, 7 sub-topic researches were carried out, including conducted research on the basic law of thermocapillary convection in half floating zone, Benard-Maragoni convection, interfacial phenomenon, multi-phase fluid, droplet migration and dynamics, and microgravity combustion under the condition of microgravity fluid; and developed general fluid experimental devices, by introducing advanced optical diagnostic technique and equipments, including equal thickness interferometer, optical image of droplet trajectory, tracer particle measurement, and temperature field measurement. The researches achieved the most successful space experiment in the world, and meanwhile obtained a mass of scientific experiment data, complete and clear real time flow field and interferogram. These provide valuable first hand information for the scientific research on microgravity fluid physics. The experiments also realized the control of droplet size and the droplet isolation technique which foreign scientists had failed to do in the process of droplet infusion, marking China has stepped into a new stage in microgravity experiment and played a leading role in the world.

3) In space material scientific research, developed independently 2 space experimental devices, and conducted scientific research on 11 sub-topics, including space melting recrystallization of ternary/binary semiconductor optoelectronic material, crystal growth, material wettability, diffusivity, controlled directional solidification, etc., achieving a number of new research results and improving research level in this field.

7.      In space environment monitoring, 9 kinds of space environment detection equipments were separately configured to Shenzhou I to VI spacecrafts to monitor various environmental parameters (e.g. upper atmosphere, high/low energy charged particle, environmental effect). Therefore, abundant of detection data were gained, providing important basis for the orbit adjustment and safety protection of the spacecrafts.

8.      The Space Environment Prediction Center established for China Manned Space Program played an important role in space environment prediction for Shenzhou series flight tests and the engineering design and development. It has successfully predicted disaster risk space environment events, thus avoided space accidents at the most. Currently, theoretical and technological basis and prediction mechanism have been formed to provide long-term, medium range and recent forecast to guarantee the safety of flight tests. It has become an important space flight support system which is infrequent in the world. Additionally, it promotes the development of fundamental research on space environment and neighboring disciplines, which makes China a leading country in the field.

9.      The Payload Application Center set up under the support of China Manned Space Program is one of the few ground technical support systems for space science and applied technology. Since its establishment in 1999, the Payload Application Center has successfully performed in-orbit operation control and management of space experiment application for Shenzhou I to Shenzhou VI spacecrafts, the double star, SJ-5 and SJ-8, as well as the acceptance, transmission, processing, and formation of high speed data in the application system, which produced primary products served for various users. To carry out the second phase of China Manned Space Program, equipments of the Center have been partly rebuilt and updated. With an outstanding talent team, the Payload Application Center has become a more mature and important ground support system in the Manned Space Program.

Achievements of the first phase of the space utilization system have benefited relevant fields and departments. A number of new technique and findings have been promoted and applied.

On April 2005, the Central Special Committee officially approved the launch of the first phase of the two steps of China Manned Space Program. On the basis of the success in the first phase, the space utilization system had far-ranging demonstration in national space science and applied technology, and made planning for subsequent missions. Shenzhou VII Spacecraft was the first flight test in the first phase of the two steps. Under the premise of ensuring astronauts’ main task of extravehicular activity, the space utilization system, with limited resources, conducted experiments on subjects directly supporting China’s manned space development. It strives to have ground-breaking findings and to contribute to the promotion of the development of China’s manned space engineering and the research on China’s space science and applied technology.

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