In June, 2012, China implemented the Tiangong I / Shenzhou IX manned rendezvous and docking mission. The objectives of the mission are as follows: to launch Shenzhou IX manned spaceship and carry out an auto and a manual rendezvous and docking respectively with Tiangong 1 target vehicle, thus verify manual rendezvous and docking technology for the first time and further verify auto rendezvous and docking technology; to comprehensively verify the function and performance of Tiangong I in supporting the work and life of astronauts as well as the assembly unit management technology, realizing for the first time the crew transportation and cargo re-supply to and from the orbit vehicle; to further test the function and performance of the spaceship, rocket and target vehicle as well as the coordination of different systems of the engineering project.
The technical status of Shenzhou IX spaceship is basically the same as that of Shenzhou VIII spaceship. Some technical alterations are made to further improve the safety and reliability. LongMarch 2F/Y9 rocket is basically the same as that of Y8 rocket.
Shenzhou IX manned spaceship was launched at 18:37 June 16 at Jiuquan Launch Center and the crew includes two male astronauts Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and one female astronaut Liu Yang. During 13 days' flight in orbit, Shenzhou IX spacecraft conducted one auto rendezvous and docking test and one manual rendezvous and docking.
At 14:14, June 18, Shenzhou IX spacecraft completed automatic rendezvous and docking with Tiangong I lab module. At 17:06, June 18, astronaut Jing Haipeng successfully opened the door to Tiangong I lab module and floated into it. It marks the success of Chinese astronauts’ first visit to Tiangong I. At 17:07, June 18, Liu Wang and Liu Yang also entered Tiangong I successively and the crew started life and work in Tiangong I lab module. On June 19, astronauts received emails from ground for the first time and contacted the ground via video link.
At 11:12 June 24, the assembly of Shenzhou IX and Tiangong I separated and Shenzhou IX undocked from Tiangong I. Later on, in close collaboration with Jing Haipeng and Liu Yang, astronaut Liu Wang operated the hand lever for parallel moving and attitude adjusting to control Shenzhou IX to approach slowly towards Tiangong I. At 12:55, Shenzhou IX spacecraft docked with Tiangong I successfully, and the two spacecrafts formed a combined unit for the second time. The astronauts entered Tiangong I lab module again. It marks the success of China's first manual rendezvous and docking.
At 9:24 June 28, Shenzhou IX and Tiangong I separated again under the manual control of astronaut Liu Wang. Some rendezvous flying tests were also carried out. At 9:17 June 29, Shenzhou IX started re-entry procedure and landed on the Inner Mongolia Main Landing Site at 10:03. Tiangong I maneuvered to long-term operational orbit. The Tiangong I / Shenzhou IX manned rendezvous and docking mission ended successfully.