An experimental cargo recovery capsule that was included as an additional payload of the Long March 5B rocket has malfunctioned during the return to Earth. An unpiloted prototype of the next generation of spacecraft developed by the Chinese space agency has continued to pursue the orbital target.
The recovery capsule was fitted with an inflatable state-of-the-art heat shield. It is started to perform abnormally during the return journey, and engineers are already hard at work as they attempt to evaluate the cause of the problems. The capsule was designed to accommodate equipment and specimens that will be sent back to Earth from China’s upcoming space station.
According to official statements, the Flexible Inflatable Cargo Re-entry Vehicle should have deployed the heat shield, which has a diameter of 10 feet or 3 meters, before it reached the atmosphere of our planet. It should have landed in the autonomous region of Inner Mongolia after spending 19 hours in space.
However, Chinese Crew Capsule Spacecraft Was Successful
The prototype of the crew capsule performed as expected. It is a significant improvement over the older Shenzhou model, which carried astronauts into orbit during six missions. One of the most significant upgrades is the ability to carry six astronauts at the same time.
Shenzhou spacecraft can bring back a limited amount of cargo, and the supply ships used by China are not designed for cargo recovery. These reasons led to the development of a special capsule for cargo recovery that could handle the task without consuming the precious space which is found aboard the crew capsules.
With the recent test, the Chinese space agency wanted to see how both capsules react when they return to Earth. The crew capsule should deploy parachutes and airbags that will ensure a smooth landing on the surface. Shenzou employed rocket thrusters to reduce the falling speed.
Several maneuvers will take place before the capsule starts its journey towards Earth.