Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

China’s experimental new-generation piloted spaceship is working normally in orbit according to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC).

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The experimental spaceship was launched Tuesday evening without crew by China’s new large carrier rocket Long March-5B from the Wenchang Space Launch Center on the coast of south China’s island province of Hainan.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The craft has adjusted its orbit six times autonomously as of 9:00 Thursday.

Landing site

The new manned spacecraft is designed to adapt to multiple tasks including low-Earth orbit missions and deep-space exploration. The spacecraft comprises a service capsule and a return capsule.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

The mission will test the key technologies of the new spaceship such as the control of its re-entry into the atmosphere, heat shielding and recovery technology, according to the China Academy of Space Technology under the CASC.

It is scheduled to touch down at the Dongfeng landing site in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on Friday, according to Ji Qiming, an assistant to the director of the China Manned Space Agency.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

Data transmission

During the flight of the spacecraft, a “time-triggered Ethernet system” completed the verification of clock synchronization, multi-source data sampling, and high-definition image transmission, thus realizing the high-speed transmission of inter-system data. This is the first time for China to carry out a space test of this technology.

“The results have met the mission’s expectations. First, we have reached the gigabit level in terms of speed. Second, compared to the previous task, the bandwidth used this time is one megabyte, which means that we have improved the performance of the traditional data bus by 1000 times,” said Lin Yue, chief designer of the information network carrier system of the 502 Institute under the Fifth Academy of the CASC.

Local area network

The time-triggered Ethernet system will be mainly used in large and complex spacecraft in the future, equivalent to the establishment of a high-speed local area network.

In the future, if the high-speed local area network is used in China’s space station, all the household appliances can be controlled with only one controller, thus forming an intelligent spacecraft information system similar to the smart home.

“The astronauts, for example, can control all the facilities on the spacecraft with a PAD (tablet personal computer), which greatly reduces the pressure on the crew and system design,” said Lin.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

3D printing system

Also onboard the new-generation vehicle is a 3D printing system making use of composite materials inside the reentry capsule of the experimental spacecraft.

Independently developed by China, CCTV reports, the 3D printer automatically completed the task of printing two samples during space flight, confirming the scientific research purpose of 3D printing composite materials in microgravity environment.

Credit: CCTV/Inside Outer Space screengrab

As noted by the China Academy of Space Technology Corporation (CAST), continuous fiber-reinforced composite material is the main material for spacecraft structure in the world. 3D printing technologies will pave the way for further construction of China’s space station and offer prospective research and technical test data.

“The first goal is to support the in-orbit long-term manned operation and maintenance of the space station. The second goal is to support the in-orbit expansion of our space station,” said CAST’s Qi Junfeng, person in charge of the space 3D printing system.

Malfunctioning reentry vehicle

Meanwhile, an experimental spacecraft — the Flexible Inflatable Cargo Reentry Vehicle – that was launched on the maiden flight of the Long March 5B carrier rocket malfunctioned as it returned to the Earth on Wednesday afternoon, according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).

The reentry vehicle was scheduled to touch down by parachute at the Dongfeng Landing Site in the Inner Mongolia autonomous region at the end of its 19-hour space trip.

China Daily reports that there were malfunctions during the re-entry process and experts are analyzing available data, the CMSA said in a brief statement, without giving details. The space vehicle, developed by the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation, was to perform a re-entry test to examine a new concept in bringing in-space cargo back to Earth.

Go to this informative video about this new stepping stone for China’s space program at:

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