Science

China just showcased its next-generation spacecraft

China’s next-generation manned spacecraft, which launched on a demo flight last year, has been revealed to the public.

The once-blown capsule is on display at Airshow China 2021 in Zhuhai city of Guangdong province. The space capsule, which launched on a Long March 5B rocket in May 2020, is larger than the country’s Shenzhou spacecraft in use today. Chinse space officials have said the new space capsule expands reliability and safety qualities, and it will be reusable.

Related: The Latest News on China’s Space Program

Lunar exploration capsule

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China's next-generation spacecraft, which once flew into space in May 2020, is seen on display for the first time at Airshow China 2021 in the city of Zhuhai in Guangdong province on October 1, 2021.

China’s next-generation spacecraft, which once flew into space in May 2020, is seen on display for the first time at Airshow China 2021 in the city of Zhuhai in Guangdong province on October 1, 2021. (Image credit: CCTV)

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China's next-generation spacecraft, which once flew into space in May 2020, is seen on display for the first time at Airshow China 2021 in the city of Zhuhai in Guangdong province on October 1, 2021.

China’s next-generation spacecraft, which once flew into space in May 2020, is seen on display for the first time at Airshow China 2021 in the city of Zhuhai in Guangdong province on October 1, 2021. (Image credit: CCTV)

Image 3 of 4

China's next-generation spacecraft, which once flew into space in May 2020, is seen on display for the first time at Airshow China 2021 in the city of Zhuhai in Guangdong province on October 1, 2021.

China’s next-generation spacecraft, which once flew into space in May 2020, is seen on display for the first time at Airshow China 2021 in the city of Zhuhai in Guangdong province on October 1, 2021. (Image credit: CCTV)

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China's next-generation spacecraft, which once flew into space in May 2020, is seen on display for the first time at Airshow China 2021 in the city of Zhuhai in Guangdong province on October 1, 2021.

China’s next-generation spacecraft, which once flew into space in May 2020, is seen on display for the first time at Airshow China 2021 in the city of Zhuhai in Guangdong province on October 1, 2021. (Image credit: CCTV)

In an interview on China Central Television (CCTV), Huang Kewu, deputy director of the general department of manned lunar exploration at the Fifth Research Institute of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), said that the new space capsule it will be fundamental for the country. future of space flight.

“The new generation of manned spacecraft is designed to meet the needs of our manned lunar exploration and space station operations in the future,” Huang told CCTV. “The new generation of manned space transport vehicles, which has been tested, could carry six to seven astronauts, while our Shenzhou spacecraft could only carry three astronauts.”

With a launch mass of 21.6 tons, the next-generation piloted spacecraft is China’s largest return and reentry spacecraft launched with the most propellant. Some of the new technologies were successfully tested on its maiden flight last year.

Related: China’s new space capsule aces maneuvers in test flight

Successful test flight

The next-generation spacecraft prototype was launched into orbit by a Long March 5B rocket on May 5, 2020 from China’s Wenchang Space Launch Center, Wenchang, Hainan Province. The spacecraft landed safely at the Dongfeng landing site on May 8 and is designed to carry both astronauts and cargo.

The right side of the vehicle carried nearly 1,000 pieces of supplies to check the spacecraft’s cargo capacity. The left side of the spacecraft was configured as a living room for the astronauts, with a folding table and a toilet.

The experimental spacecraft flew in orbit for two days and 19 hours, during which it carried out a series of space science and technology experiments, according to the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).

“We have made significant advances in thermal protection and precision control for return and re-entry, as well as engine design and no-damage landing,” Huang told CCTV.

“Achievements in manned space transportation technologies have allowed us to make a leap from going behind pacemakers to running alongside them, and this lays a strong technological foundation for our future manned lunar spacecraft,” he added.

Leonard David is the author of the book “Moon Rush: The New Space Race,” published by National Geographic in May 2019. David, a longtime writer for Space.com, has been reporting on the space industry for more than five decades. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. This version of the story was posted on Space.com.

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