Next-generation crewed spacecraft


Next-generation crewed spacecraft
diagram of the next generation crewed spacecraft
Diagram of the next generation crewed spacecraft
Country of originChina
ApplicationsChinese space station crew and cargo transport
Crewed exploration beyond LEO
Spacecraft typeCrewed
Launch mass
  • Total mass: 14,000 kg (31,000 lb) (LEO configuration)[2]
  • Total mass: 21,600 kg (47,600 lb) (lunar configuration)[3]
  • Maximum mass: 23,000 kg (51,000 lb)[4]
Dry massCrew module: 5,600 kg (12,300 lb) (landing mass)[5]
Payload capacity
  • Total payload: 4,000 kg (8,800 lb)
  • Recoverable payload:2,500 kg (5,500 lb)[2]
Crew capacity
  • 7 crew
  • 3 crew with 500 kg (1,100 lb) cargo[6]
VolumeCrew module: 13 m3 (459 cu ft)[2]
RegimeLow Earth orbit, lunar Transfer Orbit, lunar orbit
Design life21 days[1]
  • Total length: 7.23 metres (23.7 ft) (LEO configuration)[2]
  • Total length: 8.8 metres (29 ft) (lunar configuration)[3]
DiameterCrew module: 4.5 metres (15 ft)[5]
Maiden launchLM5B-Y1 (5 May 2020)

Next-generation crewed spacecraft (Chinese: 新一代载人飞船; pinyin: XīnYīDài Zàirén Fēichuán), is a type of reusable spacecraft developed and manufactured by China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). The prototype of the spacecraft underwent its first uncrewed test flight on 5 May 2020.

The crew carrier is designed to ferry astronauts to the Chinese space station in Earth orbit as well as conducting lunar exploration.


Intended to replace the Shenzhou spacecraft, the new vehicle is larger and lunar-capable. It consists of two modules: a crew module that returns to Earth, and an expendable service module to provide propulsion, power and life support for the crew module while in space.[7] It is capable of carrying six astronauts, or three astronauts and 500 kg of cargo.[8] The new crew module is partially reusable with its detachable heat shields, while the spacecraft as a whole features a modular design that allows it to be constructed to meet different mission demands.[7] With its propulsion and power module, the crew spacecraft measures nearly 8.8 meters long. It weighs around 21600 kg fully loaded with equipment and propellant, according to the China Manned Space Engineering Office (CMSEO).[9] Lunar missions are expected in the 2030s.[7]

Test flights


The debut flight of Long March 7 launched at Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site on 24 June 2016 12:00 UTC with the scaled prototype of the next-generation crewed spacecraft test vehicle, called multipurpose spacecraft scale return capsule (Chinese: 多用途飞船缩比返回舱).[1] The capsule returned and landed successfully in the desert in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, on 26 June 2016 07:41 UTC.[10]


The test flight of Long March 5B included two payloads. The primary payload was the next-generation crewed spacecraft test vehicle (Chinese: 新一代载人飞船试验船) and the accompanying secondary payload was the flexible inflatable cargo re-entry capsule test capsule (Chinese: 柔性充气式货物返回舱试验舱).[11] Both payloads were launched successfully by the first Long March 5B rocket from the Wenchang Spacecraft Launch Site, on 5 May 2020 at 10:00 UTC. The test of the next-generation spacecraft included the evaluation of avionics, orbit performance, new heat shielding, parachute deployment and a cushioned airbag landing and recovery system. The short-duration orbital test flight concluded with re-entry and landing in remote northwestern China, on 8 May 2020.[12]

The test of the secondary payload included the evaluation of the experimental flexible heat shield for cargo landing.[13][14] The flexible inflatable cargo re-entry vehicle test vehicle was scheduled to perform re-entry on 6 May 2020 after performing orbit experiment,[15] while the next-generation crewed spacecraft test vehicle carried out re-entry on 8 May 2020.[16]

On 6 May 2020, the experimental cargo return craft, the flexible inflatable cargo re-entry capsule test capsule, launched as a secondary payload on China's Long March 5B rocket, malfunctioned during its return to Earth on 6 May 2020.[17] Manned Space Engineering Office announced the cargo craft encountered an anomaly during re-entry and the investigation was carried out on the collected data.[18]

The primary payload, the unpiloted prototype for the country's next-generation crewed spacecraft, continuously raised its orbit before its landing on 8 May 2020.[17] On May 8, China's spacecraft successfully returned to the Dongfeng landing site in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region at 05:49 UTC, on 8 May 2020, according to the China Manned Space Agency.[19] During the preparation of re-entry, the uncrewed spacecraft performed seven orbit-raising maneuvers to reach a final apogee of around 8,000 km (5,000 mi). The test vehicle finished de-orbit burn at 05:21 UTC, followed by the separation of service and crew module at 05:33 UTC. Before re-entering into the atmosphere, the capsule executed a skip maneuver employing aerodynamic lift in the high upper atmosphere, which extended the re-entry time for vehicles. This technique was used to prevent high rate of peak heating forming in short span of time when the vehicle conducted high speed re-entry such as from the Moon to Earth.[20] After re-entering the atmosphere, the crew module deployed three parachutes to slow its descent (whereas the Shenzhou has one parachute) and airbags to cushion the landing.[21] According to CASC, The re-entry velocity was higher than 9 kilometers per second.[21]

Development test flights
Mission Launch Crew Launch vehicle Outcome Duration
Multipurpose spacecraft scale return capsule
(Chinese: 多用途飞船缩比返回舱)
N/A Long March 7 Success 1 day 19 hours 41 minutes
Next-generation crewed spacecraft test vehicle
(Chinese: 新一代载人飞船试验船)
N/A Long March 5B Success 2 days 19 hours 49 minutes


  1. ^ a b Barbosa, Rui C. (25 June 2016). "China successfully debuts Long March 7 – Recovers capsule". NASASpaceflight.
  2. ^ a b c d "我国"新一代"载人飞船取得突破性进展,一次可搭载6-7名宇航员". Sina News. 2 March 2020.
  3. ^ a b "新一代载人飞船试验船运抵文昌发射场". Xinhua News Agency. 21 January 2020.
  4. ^ "中国新一代载人飞船新在哪儿". Beijing Daily. 13 May 2020.
  5. ^ a b "我国新一代载人飞船试验船返回舱成功着陆 如何迎接它回家?". CCTV News (in Chinese). 8 May 2020.
  6. ^ "新一代载人飞船试验船测试全面展开". China Manned Space. 23 March 2020.
  7. ^ a b c Jones, Andrew (2 October 2019). "This Is China's New Spacecraft to Take Astronauts to the Moon". Retrieved 18 April 2020.
  8. ^ Jones, Andrew (23 January 2020). "China readies its new deep-space crew capsule for 1st test flight". Retrieved 18 April 2020.
  9. ^ "China to debut new version of powerful Long March 5 rocket this week". SFN. 4 May 2020. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  10. ^ Nowakowski, Tomasz (28 June 2016). "PROTOTYPE OF CHINA'S NEXT-GENERATION RE-ENTRY CAPSULE LANDS SAFELY IN DESERT". Spaceflight insider.
  11. ^ Xinhua Editorial Board (5 May 2020). ""胖五"家族迎新 送新一代载人飞船试验船升空——长征五号B运载火箭首飞三大看点 (LM5 Family in focus: next generation crewed spacecraft and other highlight of the Long March 5B maiden flight)". Xinhua News (in Chinese).
  12. ^ "China says new spacecraft makes successful return to Earth". 8 May 2020. Archived from the original on 8 May 2020. Retrieved 8 May 2020.
  13. ^ "China's first Long March 5B rocket launches on crew capsule test flight". SFN. 5 May 2020. Retrieved 5 May 2020.
  14. ^ Jones, Andrew (23 March 2020). "Chinese new-generation spacecraft mission proceeding despite coronavirus, Long March 7A failure". Retrieved 18 April 2020.
  15. ^ "我国首个柔性充气式货物返回舱试验舱将于6日返回 (China's flexible inflatable cargo re-entry capsule test capsule will re-entry on 6th [of May])". Xinhua News (in Chinese). 5 May 2020. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  16. ^ "我国新一代载人飞船试验船将于8日返回 (next-generation crewed spacecraft test vehicle will return on 8th [of May])". Xinhua News (in Chinese). 5 May 2020. Retrieved 7 May 2020.
  17. ^ a b Clark, Stephen (6 May 2020). "Experimental Chinese cargo return capsule malfunctions during re-entry". NASA Spaceflight.
  18. ^ "柔性充气式货物返回舱试验舱返回出现异常 (flexible inflatable cargo re-entry vehicle encounters anomaly)". Xinhua (in Chinese). 6 May 2020.
  19. ^ "Return capsule of China's experimental manned spaceship comes back successfully". Xinhua News. 8 May 2020.
  20. ^ "New Chinese crew capsule completes test flight, returns to Earth". 8 May 2020.
  21. ^ a b Jones, Andrew (8 May 2020). "New Chinese spacecraft landing marks step toward future crewed lunar missions". Space News.