This page no longer updated from 31 October 2001. Latest version can be found at Tsien Spaceplane 1978

Chinese Manned LVs
Chinese Manned LVs - Chinese Launch Vehicles for Manned Projects. From left: Tsien Spaceplane Launcher, 1978; Project 921 Launch Vehicle, 1992; CZ-2F, 1999; CZ-2E(A), 2000. Only the last two were put into full scale development.

Credit: © Mark Wade. 21,771 bytes. 360 x 480 pixels.

Class: Manned. Type: Spaceplane. Nation: China.

Tsien Hsue-shenís manned spacecraft design proposed in the late 1970ís was a winged spaceplane, launched by a CZ-2 core booster with two large strap-on boosters. It so strongly resembled the cancelled US Dynasoar of 15 years earlier that US intelligence analysts wondered if it wasnít based on declassified Dynasoar technical information. It would seem that this was to be preceded by a simpler manned capsule.

First public announcement of the manned program came in February, 1978. By November the head of the Chinese Space Agency, Jen Hsin-Min, confirmed that China was working on a manned space capsule and a "Skylab" space station.

In January, 1980 the Chinese press reported a visit with the Chinese astronaut trainees at the Chinese manned spaceflight training centre. Photographs appeared of the astronauts in training. Pressure suited astronauts were shown in pressure chamber tests. Other trainees were shown at the controls of a space shuttle-like spaceplane cockpit.

Suddenly, in December, 1980, Wang Zhuanshan, the Secretary General of the New China Space Research Society and Chief Engineer of the Space Centre of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, announced that Chinese manned flight was being postponed because of its cost. A Chinese manned spaceplane would not be considered again until the 1990's, when a Dynasoar-like orbiter was planned for Phase 3 of Project 921, to be operational in 2020.


Craft.Crew Size: 2. Total Length: 13.0 m. Maximum Diameter: 3.0 m. Total Mass: 7,800 kg.


Chinese ShuttleChinese Shuttle - Photo published in 1980 of Chinese astronauts training in a shuttle-type cockpit.

11,661 bytes. 233 x 205 pixels.

921-3 Orbiter921-3 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.

Back to Index
Last update 12 March 2001.
Contact Mark Wade with any corrections or comments.
Conditions for use of drawings, pictures, or other materials from this site..
© Mark Wade, 2001 .