Shenzhou 5: possible launch time

From: Ted Molczan (
Date: Tue Oct 14 2003 - 08:24:56 EDT

  • Next message: John Locker: "Re: Shenzhou 5: possible launch time"

    I suspect that the start of the launch window on 2003 Oct 15 may be within a
    minute or two of 09:15 Beijing Time, or 01:15 UTC on the same date.
    I arrived at this by working back from the time of sunrise near the landing
    site, assuming a 14 rev mission, as has been reported in various news media.
    Assuming landing near the co-ordinates of Shenzhou 4's landing, "about 40 km
    from Hohhot (40.51N, 111.38E)", as posted here by Harro Zimmer:
    assuming 1500 m above sea level, then sunrise would occur at about 22:40 UTC on
    Oct 15. A 14 rev mission would last about 21 h 25 min from launch to landing;
    therefore, if sun-above-the-horizon constrains the landing time, launch would
    occur at 22:40 UTC minus 21:25 = 01:15 UTC.
    After making that calculation, I found this post to FPSPACE by Chen Lan, in
    which he reports that "Hong Kong based Phoenix
    TV just announce to live televise the whole mission", with the announced
    schedule of launch coverage October 15 8:00-9:25 
    Beijing Time:
    The end of launch coverage about 10 minutes after my estimated launch time makes
    sense in that it would allow coverage through orbital insertion.
    This does not mean that the earlier reported launch time of 09:00 BT (01:00 UTC)
    is incorrect. That time would result in a landing in bright twilight, less than
    30 min before sunrise, which may be acceptable to the mission. TV coverage to
    09:25 BT, would allow for confirmation of orbital insertion, a replay of the
    launch, and closing commentary.
    For observation planning purposes, I recommend the search elements that I
    derived on the basis of launch at 01:00 UTC:
    I suspect that the launch window may be several hours long, which could make
    launch at 01:00 or 01:15 UTC academic.
    I will issue updated elements as soon as I learn of the official launch time, or
    a credible report of same, or the news of the actual launch. 
    To ensure that observers have reliable search elements in time for morning
    observations, I will not go to bed until I receive news either of a scrub or
    that that the launch has occurred.
    Many thanks to Sven Grahn for his informative articles on the Shenzhou program:
    Thank you also to Phillip Clark, whose in-depth researches into Shenzhou orbits
    eased my preparation for this launch.
    Ted Molczan
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