SCIO briefing on China's Tiangong 2 and Shenzhou 11 manned space mission

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Wang Zhaoyao, director of China's Manned Space Program Office, Gao Ming, director of the Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization, Yang Baohua, deputy manager of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, Li Jian, director of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center, Huang Weifen, deputy chief designer of the Chinese Astronaut Research and Training Center.

Hu Kaihong, vice director-general of the Press Bureau, State Council Information Office

Nov.18, 2016

Chairperson Hu Kaihong:

Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the press conference of the State Council Information Office.The Shenzhou 11 reentry module landed safely at the expected site and the Tiangong 2 and Shenzhou 11 manned space mission was a complete success. We are honored to invite Wang Zhaoyao, director of China's Manned Space Program Office, Gao Ming, director of the Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization, Yang Baohua, deputy manager of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, Li Jian, director of the Beijing Aerospace Control Center, Huang Weifen, deputy chief designer of the Chinese Astronaut Research and Training Center, to introduce the manned space mission program and answer questions.

Wang Zhaoyao:

Good afternoon, ladies, gentlemen and friends from the media. The Shenzhou 11 reentry module landed successfully at the expected site in central Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at about 13:59 Beijing Time on Friday.The two astronauts opened the return capsule's hatch successfully and are in good condition. They would be transferred to Beijing on Friday. The Tiangong 2 and Shenzhou11 manned space mission has been a complete success. We have been authorized by the headquarters of the manned space mission program and are very glad to see you here to introduce the space mission program and answer your questions.

The Shenzhou 11, with astronauts Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong on board, was launched at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 7:30 a.m. Beijing Time on Oct.17 atop a Long March-2F Y11 carrier rocket. The spacecraft later entered its designated orbit. The Shenzhou11 successfully completed its automated docking with the orbiting Tiangong 2 space lab at 3:31 a.m. on Oct. 19, which took place in orbit about 393 kilometers above the Earth. The two astronauts aboard Shenzhou11 entered the space lab of the Tiangong 2 at 6:32 a.m. successfully.

During the combination of the spacecraft, the two astronauts worked and lived normally and also conducted scientific and technical experiments on the physiological effects of weightlessness, tests on human-machine collaboration on in-orbit maintenance technology and released an accompanying satellite successfully. Accompanying photography and near-distance fly-by observation were also carried out. They collected abundant data and made some achievements in programs of gamma-ray burst polarimeter, space cold atomic clock and preparation of new materials. The Shenzhou11separated from the orbiting Tiangong 2 space lab at 12:41 p.m. Beijing Time on Nov. 17. After that, a rapid orbital maneuvering control demonstration test was carried out. At 13:11 on Nov. 18, the spaceship moved into re-entry process. At 13:59, the re-entry module landed precisely in the planned area.

The Tiangong 2 now has switched to independent operation mode to carry out space utilization science experiments. During the preparation and implementation of the manned space mission, Xi Jinping, general secretary of the CPC Central Committee, president of the People's Republic of China, chairman of the Central Military Commission, has given significant instructions many times on the success of the space laboratory mission. Xi sent congratulatory messages on the successful launch of the Shenzhou 11 mission, called and talked with the astronauts at the Command Center of the China Manned Space Program. Three other state leaders, Li Keqiang, Liu Yunshan and Zhang Gaoli were also present at the mission center and gave instructions. It indicates the Chinese government's close attention on the space mission and care for the entire staff.

This year marks the 60th anniversary of China's space industry. It is also a year of tremendous importance in the development of the manned space project. This year, we have undertaken several missions, including the debut flight of the Long March 7 rocket and the three missions of Tiangong 2 space station and Shenzhou 11 spaceship. We have also prepared for the launch of Tianzhou 1 cargo spaceship. Moreover, we are pushing ahead with research and follow-up preparations for the space station project. The various successes create important and decisive results for our space labproject, and lay a solid foundation for our space station operation and astronauts' long stays in space.

In 2017, Tianzhou1, China's first cargo spaceship, will be launched to verify the refueling technology that is key for any space station. Then, we will finish the testing phase of the space lab and enter into a new phase of building and operating space station.

Now, I'd like to take your questions. Thank you.


Can you say more about the mission? What does the success mean for the follow-up to China's existing manned space project?

Wang Zhaoyao:

In my opinion, the mission can be summed up as adequate preparations, successful implementation and fruitful achievements. Since the Shenzhou 10 mission, we have entered the preparatory phase for the space lab.Taken into account the special features of the Tiangong 2 and Shenzhou 11 missions, which involved long flight in high orbit and a large number of tests, we made adequate preparations to optimize the general technical scheme, undertook a thorough study of the orbital control strategy, improved implementation plans,enhanced product quality control, and made many experiments to simulate coordinated space tasks and astronauts' 30-day stay in space. As a result, in real practice, we successfully finished all tasks in every procedure, including rocket firing, the spaceship entering orbit, the rendezvous of the spaceship and the space lab, the astronauts' entry into the space lab, their operation of various experiments, the evacuation of the spaceship, rapid orbital maneuvering control test and the spaceship return rescue mechanism. Tasks in major procedures were broadcast live.

In the space, we carried out experiments and researches on maintaining astronauts' health and movement abilities. We carried out experiments on space science and applied technologies, such as space physics, earth observation and space materials. We carried out experiments on space station technologies, such as human-machine collaboration in-orbit maintenance and space treadmill. We also carried out experiments on aerospace technologies, such as the control of companion satellite's flight and observation. At present, periodical results are being produced for analysis. And In-orbit experiments and ground investigation are continuing. The two astronauts have excellent qualities and produced an outstanding performance.

The success of the missions so far is important to China's space mission, especially to space station construction and operation.

First, it helped us understand the laws governing mid- and long-term manned space missions. During the mission, we understood how to maintain astronauts' health, how to operate and control combined spacecraft, how to arrange and implement large-scale in-orbit experiments, and how to conduct in-orbit operations and maintenance. All of these aspects are important to follow-up research, construction, operation and management of a space station.

Second, it helped us make technical breakthroughs. We tested the functions of the launch rocket, spaceship, launch site, tracking and communications system, as well as their coordination and compatibility. We also verified the effectiveness of relative technological modifications. In particular, we tested key technologies, such as spacecraft rendezvous and docking, combination operation and manned spaceship return. All are laying a solid material and technical foundation in space station development and operation.

Third, in regard to team building and training, the mission has helped promote the astronauts' skills, showing the team is competent to carry out continuous intensive tasks, thus boosting team confidence, gaining skills in the organization and implementation of mid- and long-term missions, and accumulating valuable experience.

Fourth, through developing large-scale space experiments and ones involving applied technologies, we have gained abundant data and results as we expected.

China Daily:

I have two questions. First, compared to previous manned space flights, the time span of the Tiangong 2 and Shenzhou 11 space mission was much longer. In doing so, the aeronautical scientists adopted considerable measures to guarantee the stay of the two astronauts. The mission has turned out to be a success. Therefore, does that mean our country is capable of ensuring that astronauts can stay in space over a longer period of time? Concerning the abovementioned issue, how about the selection of the astronauts in the third batch? Second, the development of Tianzhou 1 Cargo Spaceflight has been in full swing. Would you please give us a brief introduction about the progress concerning the cargo spacecraft?

Wang Zhaoyao:

We'll give the floor to Deputy Chief Engineer Huang to answer the question.

Huang Weifen:

Thank you for your questions. Now, I'll briefly answer them. During this mission, our astronauts stayed in space for more than 30 days. It is a record for a Chinese crew, which can be considered an enormous challenge posed to the entire aeronautic system as well as a pivotal step for the transition to long-term manned spaceflight. The success fully shows that China have already developed the technologies that can support a long-term manned spaceflight and stationing.

I'll elaborate on this in the following three aspects. First, the success of the mission has proved that the measures we took to ensure the stay in the space are very effective, which has consolidated the bedrock for future long-term manned spaceflight. During the mission, our astronauts and the ground crew assessed the measures regularly. According to our statistics, the feeding rates of the two astronauts reached 95%. Everybody knows that we tried our best to prepare for a manned spaceflight lasting as long as 33 days, providing our astronauts with more than a hundred varieties of aeronautic foods. Considering their different tastes, we selected the foods that are similar to the flavors of their home cuisine. For example, Jing Haipeng is from Shanxi Province, so we provide him with the Shanxi vinegar; meanwhile, Chen Dong is a Henan native, so we offered him his favorite noodles. Within the restriction of the flight conditions, the aeronautic foods cannot compare with the flavor of ground cooking, but astronauts understand the importance of foods and nutrition when they are completing their missions; they took every meal scrupulously which in some respects reflects their professionalism. That is one of the fundamental reasons for the success they achieved during this manned spaceflight.

Huang Weifen:

Additionally, based on the physical data we tested, the physical exams, their personal views through videos, audios and images, the processes when they were completing their tasks and the data pertinent to guaranteeing their stay in the space stations, the conditions of the astronauts are very good now that they are back on earth. We got news from the landing spot that Jing Haipeng opened the door of the returned module on his own. Those conditions fully prove the effectiveness of our three major measures: to guarantee the health, life and work of the astronauts during their stay in space. Through such practices, we have better understood the technologies that ensure the safety of the space missions and are now armed with more experiences, both of which are precious fortunes. We'll continue to use them to design measures that can safeguard long-term manned spaceflight and stationing in the future.

Second, to facilitate future long space missions, we carried out orbital tests of key technologies and new ones in three major areas.

For instance, we tested the system that obviates treadmill movement in the space station when astronauts run on it. In long space missions, this feature is very important. In the Shenzhou 11 mission, our astronauts undertook many workouts on the treadmill that gave us a chance to test the system and the exercise regime. The data we have collected will help us develop new treadmills and new exercise programs for future astronauts.

We also tested the remote ground-space healthcare system. This is important to the wellbeing of future astronauts. We are applying the latest ultrasound medical imaging technology in the space station. We have designed a VR-based psychotherapy system that will help astronauts maintain mental health and improve regulation of their emotions during long space missions.

We have developed a material management system for crew members and an interactive electronic manual. We have also carried out research on the time required for complicated tasks. These activities will greatly facilitate future long space missions and help improve astronaut work efficiency.

In addition, we have tested plant cultivation technologies and the brain-computer interface. Growing plants in space tests astronauts' ability to install machines and complete cultivation tasks. We found that such activities were helpful and efficient in keeping the astronauts happy and maintaining emotional balance. All the tests are considered important in maintaining health, improving well-being and enhancing the work of astronauts on future long space missions. They also help us further improve the human-computer interface and the design of tasks and in-orbit operations for astronauts.

Third, the outstanding performance of astronauts has shown the soundness of the selection and training processes. During the Shenzhou 11 mission, it didn't take Jing Haipeng and Chen Dong long to accustom themselves to the environment in space. They conducted all operations and followed all instructions accurately. The teamwork was good. The two astronauts were excellent, completing all tasks smoothly.

The mission helped us accumulate rich experience in handling astronauts, such as their stamina and adaptability in space, knowledge reserve, daily life, fitness regime, work schedule, complicated and precise medical operations, in-orbit maintenance, human-computer interaction and ground-space coordination. The comprehensive capabilities of our astronauts were improved, providing strong support for future long space missions. The success of the Shenzhou 11 mission showed that our country is capable of sending astronauts into space for long periods.

Now, I'd like to answer the question on selecting candidates for the third astronaut batch. At present, we have completed design of the selection plan, and the actual process will start next year. To cope with the multiple tasks involved in running a space station, we plan to expand the selection scope. Besides military pilots, we will select engineers majoring in aerospace technologies to become aerospace engineers.

Wang Zhaoyao:

I would like to add one thing about the progress of the research and development of Tianzhou-1. This cargo ship is China's brand new space vehicle, and will be responsible for delivering supplies to the orbiting space station, including the astronauts' consumables such as food, necessities, propellant, maintenance items, and test and load measurement equipment. It will also be able to dispose of some of the waste from the space station as required. Tianzhou-1 is now in the general assembly and test phase, and it will be launched from Wenchang to rendezvous and dock with the Tiangong-2 space lab, followed by an attempt at propellant refilling. Thank you!


In reading about in this space mission, I note the astronauts took some high school students' experiments into the space. I would like to know the results or primary outcome of these experiments. In the past, after astronauts returned to Earth, they would form a delegation to visit Hong Kong and Macao, so is there such a plan this time? If so, when will it happen? Thank you.

Wang Zhaoyao:

This Shenzhou 11 spaceflight mission carried the prize-winning works from three Hong Kong students who participated in the Space Science Experiment Design Competition, including space silkworm breeding, chemical reaction in a water membrane, and double pendulum movements. The three experiments achieved very good results. In the silkworm experiment, five of the six silkworms were able to create cocoons. The chemical reaction produced membrane. The double pendulum movement experiment also completed the filming of movement imagery. I have to say, due to the careful scientific planning design and full preparation, everything went very smoothly in regard to the experiments in orbit and we received the expected results. And those experiments received wide attention. After the module returns to Earth, the researchers will study the cocoons and membrane and they may have some new scientific discoveries.

As for when the astronauts of Shenzhou 11 will visit Hong Kong, I would say our compatriots from Hong Kong and Macao have always been caring and shown their support for the motherland's manned spacecraft cause. After the Shenzhou-5 manned spaceflight mission, we were invited by the local governments, and our engineering delegates visited Hong Kong and Macao multiple times. They were greeted with warm welcome not only from the Hong Kong and Macao governments, but also from all sectors of society. The astronauts of Shenzhou 11 just returned to Earth today. They have stayed in the space for a relatively long period this time, so they need time to recover. After they have got enough rest and fully recovered, we will arrange follow-up events. At present, we have no plan. Thank you.

China News Service:

On June 25 and on Nov.3 this year,the medium-sized Long March 7 and the large-sized Long March 5 rockets, two of China's new-generation carrier rockets, successively lifted off from Wenchang, Hainan Province. Could you give us a brief introduction of the operation of these two types? Thank you.

Yang Baohua:

As you say, the Long March 7 and the Long March 5 rockets, two of China's new-generation carrier rockets,were successfully launched from the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan Province. These have greatly enhanced China's ability to conduct space mission, and is of great significance for the rapid development of the national space industry. The development of the Long March 7 rocket is to meet the need of launching cargo spaceships for the space station program. We also take into account the need of the country's future technological development and carrier rocket upgrades. The plan for developing the Long March7 rocket started in January 2011, and the rocket made its successful launch debut from Wenchang on June 25 this year.

As the basic type of our new-generation carrier rockets, the Long March 7 rocket has a carrying capacity of 13.5 tons in low-Earth orbit and 5.5 tons in Sun-synchronous orbit. As scheduled, the second Long March 7 rocket will send China's first cargo ship, Tianzhou1, into orbit in the first half of next year. In the follow-up missions of space station construction and operation, the Long March 7 rocket and its payload will form a cargo transportation system providing propellant fuel and other supplies for the space station. With the improvement of technical schemes and performance stability, the Long March 7 rocket can gradually become the main carrier for China's future satellites and spacecraft.

On Nov 3, the Long March 5, a new-generation heavy-lift carrier rocket, was launched for the first time in Wenchang, marking China's entry into the era of large rockets. This type is currently the country's largest space transportation system in terms of development scale and technological span. It uses non-toxic and non-polluting propellant fuel, with a take-off thrust exceeding 1,000 tons, and has a carrying capacity of 25 tons in low-Earth orbit and 14 tons in geosynchronous orbit, equal to the capacity of international mainstream carrier rockets. Based on the Long March 5 rocket, another new type, the Long March 5B rocket, has been developed to undertake the space station's accommodation pod launch. This approach will further improve the safety and reliability of rockets and meet mission needs.

In short, the successful debut of the Long March 7 and the Long March 5 rockets have not only greatly enhanced China's ability in developing carrier rocket technology, but also further improved our space station's transportation support system, thus laying a solid foundation for the construction and operation of the space station. Thank you.


The success of China's aerospace industry represents the success of technology and engineering. I'd like to ask, regarding China's Tiangong plan, how do you incorporate scientific and research plans into it? Would you please brief us on the experiments carried out during this space expedition?

Gao Ming:

In the Tiangong 2 space lab, we arranged space science experiments, earth science observation and application, and experiments on new space application technologies, among more than 10 experiment projects. The implementations of these projects are expected to lead to major breakthroughs and give subsequent benefits in our country's exploration of cutting-edge space science and the development of experiments. The experiments carried out on Tiangong 2 this time outnumbered all of China's previous manned space missions.

In detail, we carried out the following projects. The space cold atom clock carried out in Tiangong 2 is the world's first cold atom clock working in space. The project was to conduct basic research on cold atom physics, with an objective of maintaining the clock's daily stability within a range of 10−16, an international leading level. It could improve our spacecraft's autonomy punctuality and navigation precision by 1-2 orders of magnitude, meaning that the application will be important in this prospect. In previous in-orbit tests, we already managed to obtain the stability with a precision of 1.7×10−15. We will further adjust the parameters to try to reach our objective as soon as possible.

The gamma ray burst (GRB) polarization detection is a project we jointly carried out with Europe. As you may know, GRB polarization detection is a new channel for us to probe into GRB. The efficiency of our detecting device on Tiangong 2 is dozens of times higher than similar ones on the international market. By observing, we hope to obtain major achievements in unveiling the nature of GRB as well as the origin and evolution of the universe. So far we have managed to observe GRB, solar X-ray burst, and the pulse signal from the Crab Nebula Pulsars. We will continue with these observations and in the meantime, scientists will conduct analysis and research based on these scientific data.

We conducted an experiment on the accompanying satellite in Tiangong 2, the second accompanying satellite released from the spacecraft (the first was released from the Shenzhou 7 spacecraft). Equipped with an infrared camera and a visible camera operating at the level of 25 million pixels, the satellite completed its photographic mission when Shenzhou 11 combined with the space lab, observing the flight of the combination. Several experiments and tests were carried out, including that of the in-orbit release, the docking and the accompanying flight of the satellite, as well as new techniques used on the micro-satellite itself. At present, through these successful experiments, we have been able to obtain clear pictures of the spacecraft combination. The accompanying satellite has been dubbed a "selfie stick" by many netizens, and is really a wonderful tool.

In regards to Earth observation and various applications, we deployed imaging equipment, such as a multi-angle, broad-band imaging spectrograph, 3D imaging microwave altimeter and ultraviolet limb-imaging spectrometer, to observe the land, oceans and atmosphere of the Earth and test the remote sensing capabilities. The key components of this equipment, all independently developed by China, have reached a leading level in the world. In addition, new technical standards were adopted in the observation system, which remarkably enhanced their observation capability. The improvement will better assist in monitoring the global climate and environmental change, geological disasters and pollution and serve economic development when used in the agriculture, forestry and sea mining sectors. The preliminary tests showed that the observation equipment worked smoothly and steadily. They obtained abundant data and clear high-quality images that have been released on our data service platform. They will continue to finish the in-orbit tests before entering the stage of observation application.

Space science experiments, for example material growth and preparation in space and the fostering of higher plants, were carried out smoothly. The astronauts brought back samples of 12 types of materials and one plant species. We will conduct further research and analysis to discover the physical and chemical rules regarding material and plant growth in microgravity, laying a foundation for advancing material preparation techniques and improving plant species as well as researches on space ecological system.

Moreover, the programs of space environment detection and space-ground quantum key distribution test had made steady progress and yielded desirable results. Hopefully you will continue to pay attention to the application of the space lab. If you are interested, you can surf the websites of China Manned Space Program (, China Academy of Science ( and Technology and Engineering Center for Space Utilization (, for more detailed information. We will release and update the latest results on those websites. Thank you.



My question is for Mr. Li Jian. We know that you are the commander of the Monitoring, Control and Communication Department, and also experienced the entire mission from the front line. How do you value the mission? Compared with previous docking missions, what are the new difficulties and challenges this time? Is there any technologic breakthrough?

Li Jian:

The Tiangong 2 and Shenzhou 11 missions have been completed successfully. The entire in-orbit flight and control plan, space experiments and key technologies have been verified and achieved various breakthroughs. Compared with previous docking missions, the differences are as follows: Firstly, it was a mission of long duration. Our astronauts orbited for 33 days, one time longer than the previous flight. Secondly, the orbit was a totally new one, operating at a range of 393 kilometers, or 50 kilometers higher than the previous one, which will be used for our country's space station in the future. Operating in this orbit, the calculation of the launch window, long-distance guidance and control strategy, including returning control all needed redesign, resulting in a series of breakthroughs in key technologies, such as fast orbit determination of return vehicle and preparations for return. All these formed new challenges.

Thirdly, during the combination period, we successfully released an accompanying satellite for the first time. This needed frequent and difficult control procedures. We have realized satellite fly-by of the combination and maintenance at the assigned position, both of which are very difficult to achieve. Fourthly, there were many in-orbit projects, such as the mechanical arm in-orbit operation calling for coordination between man and machine and cooperation between the astronauts and ground control. By completing the mission successfully, we also achieved breakthroughs in a range of key technologies.

Phoenix TV:

After the establishment of the space station, the Three-Step Development Strategy will have been completely achieved. What's the next target for our manned space flight? When can we achieve lunar landing? Thanks.

Wang Zhaoyao:

After 20 years of construction and development, China has already become a country with independent capability to carry out manned space flight missions. Clearly, there is still some distance in terms of overall technology and ability in manned space flight between China and earlier pioneer countries. For example, the frequency and scale of manned space flight activities, in-orbit maintenance time and range of activity, and the scale of space application tests are still very limited. In general, we are still at the elementary development stage.

As the construction of Chinese space station moves forward steadily, the main objectives of the Three-Step Development Strategy will be achieved completely around 2020. For the lunar landing you just mentioned, we are still comparing different proposals. The general idea is that we will follow a manned lunar landing exploration road with Chinese characteristics. We will be happy to share with you when we have any new result in this regard. Thank you.


China Space News:

This year marks the 60th year of China's space industry. The rate of successfully launching the Long March carrier rockets is said to be as high as 97 percent, which is one of the highest in the world. Mr. Yang Baohua, I wonder why China has such a high success rate? What is behind the success? Thank you.

Yang Baohua:

Thanks. China's space industry officially began work on Oct. 8, 1956. After the continuous effort of generations of technicians and astronauts, China has become one of the world's top space powers. We have scored numerous achievements in such areas as man-made earth satellites, manned space flight and lunar exploration. Among all the space products, the Long March rockets have become world-famous. There are more than 10 types currently. More than 300 satellites have been launched successfully, with a success rate higher than 97 percent. This has put China at the forefront of the world's space industry.

We have the following experiences to share. First, success is everything. Tall talk won't work. If the flight tests fail, all efforts amount to nothing. Second, we adopt a system management method, namely, we keep carrying out the methodology of system engineering put forward by Mr. Qian Xuesen. One aspect of this is breaking down a complicated process into several parts, which essentially makes the work easier and our products more reliable. Third, we ensure fine management of the entire process. We enhance quality control on the production and testing of each phase of the products. Fourth, we keep summing up our successful experiences. However, China's space industry is not operating all that smoothly, but has also encountered setbacks. We draw on the good experience we've had, for instance, the identification and control of technical risks. In every phase of creating space products, we identify the technical risks and then manage to control them. Fifth, technological progress ensures that our products are more reliable. China's space industry has developed along with independent innovation. We have made innovations with proprietary intellectual property rights, which have propelled the rapid industrial development. Meanwhile, technological progress has also boosted our design and manufacturing capability, which has raised the probability of success.

In all, innovation is the soul of the space industry, and quality is the cornerstone running through the entire process. With intensive research, manufacturing and the launch work planned in future, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation will continue to prioritize innovation and quality to make more contribution to China's space industry. Thank you.

Hu Kaihong:

Today's press conference ends here. Thank you everyone.


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