As we celebrate the blast-off of Shenzhou-9 into space, as well as the three Chinese astronauts’ endeavor onboard the orbiting Tiangong-1 lab module, it is clearly known to us all that many others have contributed to this historic mission.
Yet you may have no idea how many items onboard carry “Made in Suzhou” labels.
The control system is to a spacecraft as the nerve system is to a human being. The optical coupler, infrared illuminator, and photistor, and LED display device produced by Suzhou Semiconductor Company have joined the hundreds of thousands of parts on the spacecraft and the rocket.
The made-in-Suzhou optical coupler, according to the company, was installed to the automatic control system of Tiangong-1 space lab, the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and the rocket that allowed signals to be transferred between circuits or systems, while keeping those circuits or systems electrically isolated from each other.
The infrared illuminator and photistor are used on the data logger, handling the important task of transmitting and receiving signals.
In order to make reliable components for Shenzhou-9, the company had all the products closely scrutinized. Its components had been used on every Chinese spacecraft from Shenzhou-1 to Shenzhou-9, as well as Tiangong-1 and Chang’e 1 lunar satellite.
In Shenzhou-9’s power subsystem, two of the core components were made in Suzhou, including the Direct Current (DC) Motor Drive Circuit and the Stepper Motor Drive Circuit.
The former is crucial to the docking mission by powering every move and procedure; the latter is very important to the operation of the spacecraft, since it adjusts the solar panel so as to provide Shenzhou-9 with enough solar power.
Suzhou R&D Center of China North Industries Group Corporation has equipped all the Chinese spacecrafts and Tiangong-1 with core integrated circuits.
In order to met the strict requirements of Shenzhou-9, the workers had done hundreds of tests, simulating any conditions in the space they could think of, such as high temperature, moisture, and ionizing radiation.
Any spacecraft has vibration problems as it is transported and launched, passes through atmosphere, docks with a space lab module, and makes attitude adjustment.
Before it is launched, numerous vibration tests were carried out to see whether each component could sustain a certain degree of vibration.
Suzhou Changling Measurement Technology Co Ltd had been doing vibration tests for Shenzhou-9 since the end of 2007. The spacecraft had to undergo harsh tests, which took over three years, before it could embark on the 13-day space journey.
Workers of Changling worked in shifts to test the rocket fuel tank, the propelling module, the resources module, the docking system, and the solar panel both separately and as a whole.
Like many other techniques, surface coating is also very important to the docking mission. Xinyi Coating Process Co, Ltd, a private enterprise in Changshu city, did the surface coating for the rendezvous point.
On November 11, 2011, the company successfully painted the rendezvous point for Shenzhou-8 and Tiangong-1. The company did its job perfectly by applying a coating of as thin as 1 mm, much thinner than the standard required.
Chen Jianzhong, general manager of Xinyi, disclosed that they had also finished the surface coating for Shenzhou-10.
There was very limited space inside the Shenzhou-9 Spacecraft, but a piece of embroidered work by artists in Suzhou’s Zhenhu finally made its way to the space, after beating some 100 candidates.
The embroidery, named “Two Deer” was created by artist Chen Hongying following a picture of the same name painted by famous artist Liu Kuiling.
Deer, or lu in Chinese, carries auspicious connotation. The embroidery measures 42 cm by 30 cm, showing two spotted deer enjoying their time under a pine tree.