China's Shenzhou-16 mission completes final rehearsal, launch imminent

The Shenzhou-16 crewed mission has successfully completed a joint pre-launch rehearsal, confirming that all systems and preparations are in order for a launch in the coming days, China Media Group (CMG) reported on Friday.

A Long March 2F-Y16 carrier rocket atop the Shenzhou-16 crewed spacecraft is transferred to the launch pad at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Northwest China, May 22, 2023. /CMG

He Pengju, chief engineer of Test and Launch at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, said the rehearsal involved various crucial activities such as connecting and configuring the rocket, conducting functional inspections of the rocket and spacecraft systems, and performing electrical tests in the launch area.

The purpose of this comprehensive rehearsal was to ensure the reliability and safety of each system involved in the launch process, he added.

Originally designated as a backup spacecraft for the Shenzhou-15 mission, the new Shenzhou-16 spacecraft is now set to carry three Chinese astronauts, or taikonauts, to the China Space Station (CSS), where they will rendezvous with the existing three-person Shenzhou-15 crew.

Once on board the CSS, the new crew members will conduct spacewalks and scientific experiments, and verify various technologies. Still, they will share their experiences to enhance scientific awareness among people worldwide.

The CSS, featuring a T-shaped basic structure, has already accommodated four groups of taikonauts.

The Shenzhou-15 crew currently onboard the space station remains in good health and is making preparations for their return to Earth, according to CMG report.