Author Topic: Shenzhou Orbital Module - why the independent capability?  (Read 2328 times)

Offline hal9000

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As we move towards the Tiangong-1 launch, I'm wondering why the Chinese bothered to develop the independent orbital operation capability for the Shenzhou OM.  Early images showed A Shenzhou docking with an independent OM, which justified the independent capability, but as this won't now happen, it seems that the OM was 'overengineered'.

Yes, the OMs to date have been used for experiments after the DM has separated, but could this not be done with dedicated satellites?  Having the independent capability must be expensive in weight and complexity.

My feeling is that either:

a)  The original purpose of this capability went away
b)  We've yet to find out what it is.

I'd thought some years back that the OM might be a kind of 'Progress' capability, left behind at the space station to act as a store room for supplies and to give additional orbital reboost capability, but that role appears to be taken by the Tiangong when it takes on its true role of supply craft for the proper Chinese station.


Offline JPK

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Re: Shenzhou Orbital Module - why the independent capability?
« Reply #1 on: 07/04/2011 11:36 am »
The function could have been to test systems for the small space station,
and to act as a stopgap untill the small station is ready. There is also the way out possibility that some engineer has a set of plans to fit a luna desent/assent system to it and turn it into a manned luna lander???
but that is probably wishfull thinking, However one can only hope for this or somthing else to light a fire under washington.

Offline lucspace

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Re: Shenzhou Orbital Module - why the independent capability?
« Reply #2 on: 07/04/2011 11:55 am »
The Tiangong-1 design that is now almost ready for launch may not me the definitive one for this experimental space lab. There have been depictions of the space lab with two docking ports. Once a Shenzhou docking at one of those were to leave behind its OM, the Tiangong would have its own EVA airlock...

Offline Phillip Clark

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Re: Shenzhou Orbital Module - why the independent capability?
« Reply #3 on: 07/04/2011 12:42 pm »
Ever since it became clear that the Chinese would go directly to docking with a small space lab rather than with the previous Shenzhou's orbital module, I have wondered why the independent flight capability is being thrown away (apparently).

Shenzhou 7 did not carry solar panels on its orbital module and the OM was essentially junk from the time that is was separated from the descent module: it performed no manoeuvres in orbit afterwards.

Since all of the Chinese depictions of the Shenzhou and an orbital lab or fully-blown orbital station also show the OM without solar panels, this suggests that the OM will not longer have an independent flight capability.

Maybe the independent flight capability was for when the Chinese expected a Shenzhou to dock with the OM from the previous mission, and with that experiment not taking place it was simplest to remove the independent flight capability?
I've always been crazy but it's kept me from going insane - WJ.