Shenzhou 8
Diagram of Shenzhou 8 (right)
docked with Tiangong-1 (left)
Mission typeTest flight
COSPAR ID2011-063A Edit this at Wikidata
SATCAT no.37859
Mission duration18 days
Spacecraft properties
Spacecraft typeShenzhou
Start of mission
Launch date31 October 2011, 21:58:10.430 UTC
RocketLong March 2F
Launch siteJiuquan, LA-4/SLS-1
ContractorChina Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT)
End of mission
Landing date17 November 2011, 11:32 UTC
Landing siteSiziwang Banner, Inner Mongolia
Orbital parameters
Reference systemGeocentric orbit
RegimeLow Earth orbit
Docking with Tiangong-1
Docking date2 November 2011, 17:28 UTC
Docking with Tiangong-1
Docking date14 November 2011, 12:07 UTC
Undocking date16 November 2011, 10:30 UTC
Time docked1 day, 22 hours, 23 minutes
Shenzhou 8

Shenzhou 8 (Chinese: 神舟八号) was an uncrewed flight of China's Shenzhou program,[1] launched on 31 October 2011 UTC, or 1 November 2011 in China, by a Long March 2F rocket which lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.[2]

The Shenzhou 8 spacecraft was automatically docked with the Tiangong-1 space module (launched on 29 September 2011) on 3 November 2011 and again on 14 November 2011.[3] This uncrewed docking – China's first – was followed in 2012 with the crewed Shenzhou 9 mission, which performed a crewed docking (also China's first) with the Tiangong-1 module.[1][4] Only the Soviet Union (Russia), Japan[5] and the European Space Agency (ESA) had achieved automatic rendezvous and docking prior to China's accomplishment.


On 29 September 2008, Zhang Jianqi (张建启), vice director of China crewed space engineering, announced in an interview of China Central Television (CCTV)[6] that Tiangong-1, an 8-ton "target vehicle", would be launched in 2010 (now 2011), and that Shenzhou 8, Shenzhou 9 and Shenzhou 10 were all intended to dock with it. On 1 October 2008, Shanghai Space Administration, which participated in the development of Shenzhou 8, stated that they have succeeded in the simulated experiments for the docking of Tiangong-1 and Shenzhou 8.[7]

In February 2009, the launch of Shenzhou 8 was planned for early 2011.[8] By March 2011, the launch had been postponed until in October 2011.[1]

Shenzhou 8 was launched at 21:58 UTC on 31 October 2011 (UTC) (1 November in China) by a Long March 2F rocket. The launch lifted off from 921/SLS-1 Launch Pad at the Southern Launch Site of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.[2] The uncrewed Shenzhou 8 mission successfully docked with Tiangong-1 on 2 November 2011 (UTC), marking China's first orbital docking.[9] Shenzhou 8 undocked from Tiangong-1 on 14 November 2011, before successfully completing a second rendezvous and docking, so as to test the reusability of the docking system.[10][11][12] Shenzhou 8 deorbited on 17 November 2011, and landed safely in Siziwang Banner in Inner Mongolia.[13]


Shenzhou 8 features an active APAS-like docking module in place of the usual orbital module, and performed its docking operation automatically under ground control.[14] Docking took place on 2 November 2011 at 17:28 UTC, during orbital darkness to avoid interference from the Sun's glare with sensitive navigation and rendezvous equipment.[15] After 12 days being docked, Shenzhou 8 undocked and a second docking took place, this time in full sunlight.[16] The separation, second rendezvous, and docking occurred on 14 November 2011 and was aimed to test accuracy and reliability of equipment and sensors in a bright environment.[17] On 17 November 2011, the capsule was autonomously de-orbited.[2]

The mission also featured a biological sample supplied by Germany and the European Space Agency (ESA), which was cited as an example of "international cooperation in the field of manned space" by Zhang Jianqi, deputy chief commander of the China Manned Space Program.[18]

Spacecraft design

According to Zhang Bainan, the chief designer of China's spacecraft systems, Shenzhou 8 was the last to see significant modifications from previous models. Future flights will use the same spacecraft design, which is intended for production of multiple units of the same design.[19][20]

See also


  1. ^ a b c David, Leonard (7 March 2011). "China Details Ambitious Space Station Goals". Retrieved 11 March 2011.
  2. ^ a b c Barbosa, Rui C. (31 October 2011). "China successfully launches Shenzhou-8 via Long March 2F". Retrieved 3 November 2011.
  3. ^ Wall, Mike (2 November 2011). "China Succeeds in First Space Docking by 2 Spaceships". Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  4. ^ Clark, Stephen (12 May 2011). "Docking, extended space missions up next for China". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 13 May 2011.
  5. ^ ETS-VII
  6. ^ "我国将于2010年-2011年发射小型空间站" [China will launch a small space station in 2010–2011]. Sina News (in Chinese). 29 September 2008. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  7. ^ "神八空间模拟对接初步成功" [Simulated docking of Shenzhou 8 has succeeded]. Sina News (in Chinese). 1 October 2008. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  8. ^ "China plans to launch space station in 2010". France 24. Agence France-Presse. 1 March 2009. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  9. ^ Amos, Jonathan (2 November 2011). "Chinese spacecraft dock in orbit". BBC News. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  10. ^ Mo, Hong'e, ed. (7 November 2011). "2nd docking of Tiangong-1 & Shenzhou-8 on schedule". Xinhua News Agency. CNTV. Archived from the original on 10 November 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  11. ^ Wang, Guanqun, ed. (14 November 2011). "Chinese spacecraft Shenzhou-8 disengages from space lab module Tiangong-1". Xinhua News Agency. Archived from the original on 17 November 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  12. ^ "China completes second space docking". Space Daily. Agence France-Presse. 14 November 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  13. ^ Bodeen, Christopher (18 November 2011). "Shenzhou 8 Docking Mission Major Step To Space Station, China Says". The Huffington Post. Archived from the original on 21 November 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  14. ^ Clark, Stephen (2 November 2011). "Chinese docking system based on Russian design". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
  15. ^ Clark, Stephen (2 November 2011). "Successful docking catapults China into elite space club". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
  16. ^ Clark, Stephen (14 November 2011). "Shenzhou 8 aces second docking test in sunlight". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 17 November 2011.
  17. ^ "Second Tiangong-1 And Shenzhou-8 docking to face light interference". Space Daily. Xinhua News Agency. 11 November 2011. Retrieved 12 August 2021.
  18. ^ "China's Shenzhou-8 Spacecraft To Carry Bio Sample For ESA". Space Daily. Xinhua News Agency. 9 March 2009. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  19. ^ "Shenzhou-8 to be fixed version of China-made space vessels: expert". People's Daily. Xinhua News Agency. 13 October 2005. Retrieved 10 December 2010.
  20. ^ Covault, Craig (2 March 2009). "China readies military space station – launch coincides with shuttle phaseout". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 10 December 2010.