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Shenzhou 2 - January 9, 2001 - carrying live test animals
2005-10-11 21:37:18

Shenzhou 2 launched on January 9, 2001, was the second unmanned launch of the Shenzhou spacecraft. Inside the reentry capsule were a monkey, a dog and a rabbit in a test of the spaceship's life support systems. The reentry module separated from the rest of the spacecraft after just over seven days in orbit, with the orbital module staying in orbit for another 220 days.

Shenzhou 2 tested the spacecraft much more rigorously than its predecessor Shenzhou 1. After being launched into a 196.5 by 333.8 km orbit, 20.5 hours after launch it circularised its orbit to 327.7 by 332.7 km. Around 1220 UTC on 12 January it once again changed its orbit to 329.3 by 339.4 km. A third orbit change came on 15 January 328.7 by 345.4 km.

As well as the animal cargo, there were 64 different scientific payloads. 15 were carried in the reentry module, 12 in the orbital module and 37 on the forward external pallet. These included a microgravity crystallography experiment; animal species including six mice, and small aquatic and terrestrial organisms; cosmic ray and particle detectors and a gamma ray burst detectors. To test the radio transmitting systems taped messages were broadcast from the spacecraft.

The signal for retrofire was sent at about 1015 UTC on 16 January as the spacecraft passed over the South Atlantic Ocean off the coast of South Africa. It landed in Inner Mongolia at 11:22 UTC. No photos were released of the landing capsule leading to some speculation that the reentry was not completely successful, though this was denied by Chinese officials. The Swedish Space Center news site reported that an unnamed source said one of the connections from the capsule to the single parachute failed leading to a hard landing.

The mission of the orbital module continued until it was commanded to fire its rockets to iniate reentry on August 24. It reentred about 33กใ6กไ S 260กใ24กไ E over the western Pacific Ocean between Easter Island and Chile.

Mission Parameters
Mass: 7,400 kg
Perigee: 330 km
Apogee: 346 km
Inclination: 42.6กใ
Period: 91.3 minutes
NSSDC ID: 2001-001A

(Source: Wikipedia)
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