Shenzhou-15 prepared for launch.
Image credit: CMS/CGTN/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The crew of China’s next human spaceflight has been announced: Veteran space flyer Fei Junlong along with Deng Qingming and Zhang Lu, both first flight crew members.

The Shenzhou-15 manned spaceship will be launched Tuesday, November 29 at 23:08 Tuesday (Beijing Time) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

Taikonaut trio, left to right: Zhang Lu, Fei Junlong, Deng Qingming. Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

This upcoming mission marks the sixth piloted flight of China’s crewed spaceflight program this year and the last one in the construction phase of the country’s space station.

Former space traveler Fei flew 17 years ago a five-day Shenzhou-6 spaceflight mission with colleague Nie Haisheng – the second piloted spacecraft of the Chinese space program.

Six areas of work

The Shenzhou-15 trio will stay in orbit for six months.

After entering China’s space station, the Shenzhou-15 crew will carry out missions in multiple areas after entering China’s space station, including spacewalks and a number of space science experiments, Ji Qiming, assistant to the director of China Manned Space Agency (CMSA), said at a press conference on Monday.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

“During the mission, the Shenzhou-15 crew members will focus on six areas of work,” Ji said. “First, they will carry out long-term residency verification of the status of the three modules of the space station. Second, they are to get 15 science experiment cabinets unlocked, installed and tested, and carry out more than 40 space science experiments and technology tests in the fields of space science research and application, space medicine and space technology.”

Ji added that the soon-to-launch crew will carry out three to four extravehicular activities, in order to install an expansion pump set and a load platform exposed to the space. Also, they will verify the working mode of cargo airlock cabin and conduct six extravehicular tasks of cargo in coordination with our colleagues on the ground.

A fifth area, Ji added, involves the crew carrying out regular platform test, maintenance and management of the space station. Lastly, the astronauts will roll out exercises for health protection on orbit, as well as training sessions and drills.

Shenzhou-15 crew meets reporters.
Credit: GLOBALink/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Crew handover

Also on tap, the Shenzhou-15 crew members will join the now orbiting Shenzhou-14 colleagues to complete the space station’s first-ever crew handover, as they strive to complete the final phase of construction by the end of the year.

“The Shenzhou-15 mission is the last leg in the construction phase of China’s space station, and the first leg in the application and development phase of the space station. It plays an important role in linking the past and the future,” Ji said.

In a related China Central Television (CCTV) story, Ren Changwei, chief designer of the manned spacecraft system general assembly of the China Academy of Space Technology, said: “Actually, we will launch the Shenzhou-15 spacecraft for this mission, but at the same time, the Shenzhou-16 manned spacecraft has also been transported into the launch site and is also in a standby state. When the Shenzhou-15 is launched, the Shenzhou-16 will be on standby for emergency rescue.”

For new videos detailing the upcoming Shenzhou-15 crew and launch, go to:

https://youtu.be/oNGDQlLt-Y0

https://youtu.be/qQ7zlOHks3w

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