The recovery capsule of the Chinese Shen Zhou 2 spacecraft returned to Earth on 16 January, landing in Inner Mongolia after a 108-orbit flight. The orbital module, packed with experiments, continues to operate in orbit. Shen Zhou, comprising the orbital module, recovery capsule and propulsion module, was launched on 9 January from Jiuquan.
Shen Zhou 1 made a 21h flight in 1999. A manned spaceflight of a Shen Zhou - based on the design of the Russian Soyuz TM - is now expected next year.
Shen Zhou 2 made three orbital manoeuvres during its mission to raise the 42° inclination orbit from 197-336km (122-205 miles) to 330-346km by the end, according to the UK-based Molniya Space Consultancy which monitors Chinese space activities.
The orbital module contains experiments for semi-conductor, protein and metallic crystal growth and biological studies using plants, animals and cells.
Source: Flight International