[FPSPACE] What happened to Shenzhou-8's orbital module?

Charles, John B. (JSC-SA211) john.b.charles at nasa.gov
Wed Dec 21 13:37:18 EST 2011

Phil, thanks for this interesting information. It contradicts an earlier—and ambiguous—report in the Chinese press that seemed to indicate no independent flight for the Shenzhou-8 OM:

Beijing Xinhua in English 1108 GMT 17 Nov 11 [Xinhua: "China's Unmanned Spacecraft Heads Back To Earth After Docking Mission"]
BEIJING, Nov. 17 (Xinhua) -- China's unmanned spacecraft Shenzhou-8 started journey back to Earth Thursday evening after completing the country's first docking mission with target orbiter Tiangong-1…  Shenzhou-8's re-entry module needs to undergo complex procedures of engine brakes and separation from the orbital module, then the propelling module, before landing in northern China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

It also addresses an inference from Paolo Ulivi (on Nov. 16) that if the S-8 OM had no solar panels, then there was no point to leaving it in orbit. Seems to me that any batteries would have run down by now, if in continuous use. But if the point is just to reduce mass before de-orbit, then it still makes sense to leave it behind.


From: Phillip Clark [mailto:phillipclark at btinternet.com]
Sent: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 9:36 AM
To: Charles, John B. (JSC-SA211); jameseoberg at comcast.net; fpspace at friends-partners.org
Subject: Re: [FPSPACE] What happened to Shenzhou-8's orbital module?

It's 2011-063D (37883), in orbit with a mean motion of 15.842566 revs/day.

Phil Clark

----- Original Message -----
From: Charles, John B. (JSC-SA211)<mailto:john.b.charles at nasa.gov>
To: 'jameseoberg at comcast.net'<mailto:'jameseoberg at comcast.net'> ; 'fpspace at friends-partners.org'<mailto:'fpspace at friends-partners.org'>
Sent: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 3:12 PM
Subject: Re: [FPSPACE] What happened to Shenzhou-8's orbital module?

There was a oblique comment from the Chinese press that indicated the sequence was: deorbit, jettison hab module, jettison instrument module. I will forward for your review.

From: James E Oberg [mailto:jameseoberg at comcast.net]
Sent: Wednesday, December 21, 2011 08:46 AM
To: fpspace at friends-partners.org<mailto:fpspace at friends-partners.org> <fpspace at friends-partners.org<mailto:fpspace at friends-partners.org>>
Subject: [FPSPACE] What happened to Shenzhou-8's orbital module?

After completion of the docking mission to Tiangong,
what did Shenzhou do with its orbital module? Was it
jettisoned pre-deorbit [standard procedure], and if so
was it tracked and catalogued? Or did it ride down
with the entering vehicle, Soyuz style, for jettison and

Just asking...

Jim O
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