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Chinese shuttle craft - model at the Chinese Pavillion, Hannover Expo 2000.The model indicates a spaceplane similar to the cancelled European Hermes.
Credit: © Mark Wade. 13,752 bytes. 498 x 274 pixels.
Class: Manned. Type: Spaceplane. Nation: China.
The first model of the planned 921-3 manned shuttle was exhibited at Hannover Expo 2000. This showed a double-delta winged spaceplane with a single vertical stabiliser, equipped with three high-expansion engines. Based on the size of the presumed two crew side-by-side cockpit, dimensions could be very roughly estimated as a wingspan of 8 m and a length of 12 m, and a total mass of 12 tonnes (within the payload capability of the Chinese CZ-2E(A) or Type A launch vehicles).
|Chinese Spaceplane - Chinese spaceplane in re-entry attitude. Dynasoar-like configuration based on published photo of wind-tunnel model.|
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China published photographs of a two-seat spaceplane simulator as early as 1980. This was possibly a test cockpit in an aircraft that flew parabolic trajectories to provide brief periods of zero-G. Given Tsien Hsue-shen’s, lifelong interest in winged hypersonics, it seems likely that this two seater was indeed the cockpit for a Chinese Dynasoar-type spaceplane. Reports of the existence of a wind tunnel model have continued through the years. However lack of funds prevented full scale development from beginning.
|Chinese Shuttle - Photo published in 1980 of Chinese astronauts training in a shuttle-type cockpit.|
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In April 1992 the Chinese leadership decided that an independent manned space program could now be afforded. The Chinese National Manned Space Program was given the designation Project 921. The third stage, 921-3, was a modern space-earth transportation system, using a delta winged orbiter, to be operational by 2020. The 921-1 manned capsule entered full scale development in 1993 and the 921-2 space station in 1999. Only preliminary work has been undertaken to date on the 921-3.
|921-3 Orbiter - This wind tunnel model of a Dynasoar-like spaceplane may represent the orbiter stage of the 921-3 reusable spacecraft.|
Credit: © Heritage Foundation. 25,410 bytes. 580 x 258 pixels.
Some photographs have been released of a wind tunnel model. The narrow fuselage and wing tip vertical stabilisers were strongly reminiscent of the United States’ X-20 Dynasoar spaceplane of the 1960’s. Another picture shows computer simulations of airflow around a different double-delta winged spacecraft. This has an appearance very close to the US space shuttle, but without a tail. This more closely resembled the Hannover model, except the latter was equipped with a modest vertical stabiliser similar to that on the Russian BOR-4 spaceplane.
|921-3 Booster - This Chinese picture of computer simulated flow around a space shuttle-like shape might represent the booster stage of the 921-3 reusable spacecraft.|
Credit: © Heritage Foundation. 22,830 bytes. 485 x 408 pixels.
This very ambitious project will probably be realised in a different form than that originally planned some time in the first half of the next century. The Hannover model suggests that a modest spaceplane, launched by expendable boosters, would be flown before proceeding to any full-scale reusable winged launch vehicles.
Craft.Crew Size: 2. Total Length: 12.0 m. Maximum Diameter: 2.0 m. Total Mass: 12,000 kg.
Project 921-3 Chronology
01 April 1992
Chinese manned space programme authorised
The Chinese leadership decided that an independent manned space program could be afforded. The Chinese National Manned Space Program was given the designation Project 921. The 921-1 manned capsule entered full scale development in 1993 and the 921-2 space station in 1999. Only preliminary work was authorised on the 921-3 reusable spaceplane.
- 424 - Chen Lan, Dragon in Space, . HTML when accessed: http://www.geocities.com/CapeCanaveral/Launchpad/1921/
- 425 - Grondine, Ed, Encyclopedia Astronautica, "Chinese Manned Space Program: Behind Closed Doors", . HTML when accessed: http://solar.rtd.utk.edu/~mwade/articles/chidoors.htm
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Last update 12 March 2001.
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© Mark Wade, 2001 .