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Tiangong-2 ready for docking with Shenzhou-11

Reporter: Zhang Dan 丨 CCTV.com

10-18-2016 12:33 BJT

Full coverage: China Tiangong-2 Space Lab Launch

China's Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft has completed the first orbit control process after its Monday launch. Now flight control staff at the Beijing Aerospace Command and Control Center are monitoring and controlling the spacecraft.

They will conduct long-distance guidance and control for five times in preparation for the rendezvous and docking with space lab Tiangong-2.  The Tiangong-2 has been maneuvered into a near circular orbit 393 kilometers from Earth. 

The two astronauts are in good condition. Commander Jing Haipeng is a 50-year-old veteran who participated in the Shenzhou-7 and Shenzhou-9 missions. 38-year-old Chen Dong is on his first mission.

When the Shenzhou-11 and Tiangong-2 are about 52 kilometers from each other, an automatic procedure takes over.

The Shenzhou-11 will have to decelerate 4 times before rendezvous-ing.

This will start at 5 kilometers from the target, then at 400 meters, 140 meters and 30 meters away - This should allow the spacecraft to be traveling at just the right speed and at just the right angle.

This phase is the most complicated part of the procedure.

"We have to test and see if the spacecraft reaches a safe distance and error range. If it satisfies the requirement, we could let it continue to go.  If not, we have to back up and do it again," said Ma Xiaobing, vice chief engineer.

Automatic doesn't mean the astronauts will be idle. When the distance reaches 120 meters, they will get ready for manual control, just in case.

At 30 meters, the Shenzhou-11 will extend its hook to grab hold of the waiting space lab.

The Tiangong-2 is now fully operational and ready for docking. Mission control has run  the tests for pressure, temperature and toxic gas. Everything's set for the astronauts inside the space lab.

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