China has demonstrated the ability of its Shen Zhou manned spacecraft to change orbit in a trial undertaken on the vehicle during its second unmanned test flight after its 10 January launch.

The Shen Zhou moved from its original position into a circular 328km (203 miles) by 334km orbit on 11 January. In this orbit, recovery could be achieved on days three, five and seven of the flight. The test flight was expected to last a week, compared with the 21hrs of the first flight in November 1999.

Shen Zhou was launched on a Long March 2F booster from Jiuquan, carrying "animals and microbial cells". The test flight is expected to lead to the first manned spaceflight by a nation other than Russia or the USA.

Source: Flight International