The trio’s time in orbit has gone well so far, but the Shenzhou 15 spacecraft and a Long March 2F rocket have been assembled and tested on the ground in case of an emergency aboard China’s Tiangong space station.
“If the spaceship in space is out of order and can’t return, then we’ll quickly launch this rescue spaceship, which can enter orbit in a very short time and bring the astronauts back to Earth,” Jia added.
If all continues to go well with Shenzhou 14, however, Shenzhou 15 will launch sometime around December to carry out its primary, intended mission — sending three new astronauts to the completed three-module Tiangong. There they will meet up with the Shenzhou 14 astronauts for Tiangong’s first-ever crew handover.
It was earlier reported that Shenzhou 14, while on standby during the recent Shenzhou 13 mission, could have been readied for launch within nine days.
Shenzhou 14 took out on June 4 and arrived seven hours later to the Tianhe space station core module with astronauts Chen Dong, Liu Yang, and Cai Xuzhe.
“When a spaceship is performing tasks in space, there must be another manned spaceship on standby on the ground for emergency rescue,” Jia Shijin, chief designer of the crewed spacecraft system under the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), explained.