During November 20-21, 1999, the first unmanned flight test under the China Manned Space Program was implemented. It is the first flight test of LongMarch 2F carrier rocket, of which the main purpose is to examine the performance and reliability of carrier rocket, and, by launching an unmanned spaceship, verify the correctness of key technologies and system design relating to re-entry control as well as the working harmony of the whole system including launching, tracking, control, communication, landing and recovery facilities. The smooth completion of this test is an important milestone in the space history of China, and indicates that China has made major breakthrough in manned space technologies.
The Shenzhou I spaceship is the first unmanned test spaceship to be launched under the China manned space program, and is composed of orbital module, re-entry module and propelling module. The orbital module is the place where the astronauts live and work; the re-entry module is the control center of the spaceship, whereby the astronauts will get into the space and then return to the Earth; the propelling module is also called as power module, which provides power for spaceship in the course of in-orbit flight and return to the Earth. The total length of three modules of the spaceship is about 8m, the diameter of the cylindrical section is 2.5m, the maximum diameter of the cone-shaped section is 2.8m, and the total mass reaches 7,755kg.
At 6:30:07 a.m. on November 20, 1999, the Shenzhou I spaceship was launched by the LongMarch 2F carrier rocket from Jiuquan Launch Center. Ten minutes after the ignition, the spaceship was separated from the rocket, and then accurately entered into the preset orbit. After the spaceship entered into the orbit, the tracking & control centers on the ground and the tracking ships in the Pacific Ocean and the Indian Ocean carried out tracking and control on the spaceship, and also tested the life guarantee system and posture control system in the spaceship. At 3:00 a.m. on November 21, the ground command center sent the re-entry command to the spaceship, and the Shenzhou I spaceship smoothly landed at the landing site in the middle of Inner Mongolia at 3:41 a.m. on November 21. The space flight lasted for 21 hours.