Shenzhou 16 | Long March 2F

Featured image: Xinhua
Lift Off Time
(Subject to change)

May 30, 2023 – 01:28 UTC | 09:28 BJT

Mission Name

Shenzhou 16

Launch Provider
(What rocket company is launching it?)

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC)

(Who’s paying for this?)

China National Space Administration (CNSA)


Long March 2F

Launch Location

Site 901 (SLS-1), Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, Gobi Desert, China

Payload mass

Up to 8,400 kg (18,500 lb)

Where is the spacecraft going?

The Tianhe module of the Tiangong Space Station, Low-Earth Orbit (LEO) – 370 km (230 mi), at a 41.0° inclination

Will they be attempting to recover the first stage?

No, this is not a capability of the Long March 2F

Where will the first stage land?

It will crash into the ocean

Will they be attempting to recover the fairings?

No, this is not a capability of the Long March 2F

Are these fairings new?


How’s the weather looking?


This will be the:

– 11th crewed Chinese spaceflight
– 11th crewed flight in the Shenzhou program
– 16th flight of a Shenzhou spacecraft
– 20th launch of a Long March 2F rocket
– 81st orbital launch attempt of 202

Where to watch

If available, an official livestream will be listed here

What Does All This Mean?

The China National Space Administration (CNSA) will launch the Shenzhou 16 spacecraft atop a Long March 2F rocket, carrying three People’s Liberation Army Astronaut Corps (PLAAC) taikonauts to the Tiangong Space Station. This will be the fifth crewed launch to China’s new space station and the mission is expected to last six months.

The Shenzhou 16 Mission

Shenzhou 16 will be the fifth crewed mission to the Tianhe CCM, the first module of the China’s Tiangong Space Station, which is currently under construction in LEO. The CNSA is expected to announce the names of the three crew members, the commander and two operators, in a press conference the day before liftoff. The crew of the Shenzhou 16, will replace the space stations current inhabitants, the crew of the Shenzhou 15, who will undock from the station around 10 days after the arrival of the Shenzhou 16. This mission is scheduled to last six months.

During their mission, the crew of the Shenzhou 16 will carry out several spacewalks, work on payloads on both the inside and outside of the station, and carry out a wide variety of scientific experiments.

This Shenzhou 16 mission follows the launch of the fifth cargo resupply mission, the Tianzhou 6, on May 10, 2023, which carried ~ 5,800 kg (~12,900 lb) of cargo to the Tianhe CCM. The spacecraft delivered supplies for the upcoming crewed mission and propellant to continue autonomously refueling and maintaining the module’s orbital altitude.

The Shenzhou Spacecraft

The Shenzhou spacecraft (meaning “divine vessel”) is largely comparable to the Soyuz in its design and technology; although the Shenzhou is substantially bigger at 9.25 x 2.8 m. The spacecraft’s maiden flight was on November 19, 1999, and it’s first crewed launch was the Shenzhou 5, which launched October 15, 2003, making China the third country to demonstrate human spaceflight capabilities.

The spacecraft has three modules: a forward orbital module, a reentry capsule in the middle, and an aft service module. The orbital module has room to store experiments and equipment, and is also a space for in-orbit habitation. The reentry module is the middle section of the spacecraft. This is where the crew sits for lift off and reentry, and is the only part of the vehicle which makes it back to Earth. The service module holds the life support and equipment needed for the Shenzhou to function. The spacecraft also has two sets of solar panels, with a total area of 40 m2 (430 ft²). One pair is found on the service module, and the other on the orbital module.

The Shenzhou 12 crew training to fly the Shenzhou spacecraft (Credit: Xinhua)

The Tiangong Space Station

The Tiangong Space Station (meaning “heavenly palace”) is a space station currently under construction in LEO. When complete, the station will be roughly one-fifth the mass of the of the International Space Station. Construction began on April 29, 2021, when the core module, the Tianhe, which is able to accommodate three crew members with a built-in life support system, was launched on a Long March 5B rocket. The construction of the Tiangong is based on China’s two previous prototype space stations, the Tiangong-1 and the Tiangong-2.

The Shenzhou 15 mission was the last of 11 planned launches across 2021-2022 to construct the station, which included three module launches, four cargo spacecraft, and four crewed missions. When complete, the station will be comprised of at least three modules, though it has the ability to expand to six, and it is expected to be operational for at least 10 years.

The crew of the Shenzhou 12 inside the Tianhe CCM (Credit: CGTN)

What Is The Long March 2F?

The Long March 2F, also known as the “Shenjian,” meaning “Divine Arrow,” is a Chinese rocket and member of the Long March 2 rocket family. Designed to launch the Shenzhou spacecraft, the Long March 2F is the human-rated, two stage version of the Long March 2E rocket. The 2F is externally similar to the 2E, with main change being the inclusion of a launch escape system. There are also some structural changes which allow the 2F to support the heavier fairing required by the Shenzhou capsule. The 2F is also capable of carrying heavier payloads thanks to the additional boosters on the first stage.

The Long March 2F on the launch pad (Credit: Xinhua)


The Long March 2F has four boosters, each of which are 15.3 m (50 ft) in length, and each with one YF-20B engine. The YF-20B burns dinitrogen tetroxide (N2O4 ) and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) in a gas generator cycle. The boosters have a burn time of 128 seconds, and a specific impulse (ISP) of 291 s. Collectively the boosters produce 3,256 kN (732,000 lbf) of thrust at lift off.

First Stage

The first stage of the Long March 2F is 23.7 m (78 ft) in length and 3.4 m (11 ft) in diameter. Just like the boosters, this stage has four YF-20B engines, burning N2O4 and UDMH. This stage has a burn time of 166 seconds, and an ISP of 291 s.

Second Stage

The second stage is powered by a single YF-24B engine module, comprising a YF-22B engine and a YF-23B vernier, which again runs on N2O4 and UDMH. The stage is 13.5 m (44 ft) in length and 3.4 m (11 ft) in diameter, and provides 831 kN (187,000 lbf) of thrust. This stage has an ISP of 289 s, and will burn for approximately 300 seconds.

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