CNSA can consider mission of the Long March 7 as full success. After launch, correct flight and deployment of the payload, Chinese space agency could put another thick in the box in LM-7 mission plan. Experimental capsule of future Chinese spacecraft returned successfully to Earth.
Capsule landed on parachute on Badain Jaran Desert at 07:41 GMT on June 26, 2016. Reentry was performed 17 hours after launching Long March 7 from Wenchang Satellite Launch Center. LM-7 delivered in its maiden flight scaled model of the capsule. Model was equipped in sensors and data recorders to help with gathered measurements of speed, acceleration, temperature, pressure in designing process of new Chinese spacecraft which will replace Shenzhou spacecraft in future. According to Chinese media, capsule reentered and landed without any problems; recovering teams reached capsule, cut off parachute and load it on truck. Capsule will return to China Association for Science and Technology (CAST) for further analysis of construction. It is worth to remind that along with changes in general shape, new Chinese spacecraft and its capsule has new Thermal Protection System with modular construction and based on new materials. Television broadcast and pictures showing capsule after reentry showed capsule in really good condition, Thermal Protection System seems two work fine; According to Chinese media during this reentry new technology of TPS was tested with success. Engineers finally decided to test their new Phenolic Impregnated Carbon Ablator technology, identical which is planned to be use in real capsule. PICA Thermal Protection System is removable as single element which will help in servicing capsule after mission due the significantly shorter time of changing TPS as single part rather than using multiple elements like in Shenzhou spacecrafts.
Model launched on June 25 2016, weighs approximately little over 2500 kg with height of 2.3 m and diameter on base of 2.6 m and is result of research and development of China Academy of Space Technology (CAST). Future spacecraft will be manufactured in two versions which differ with weight and possibilities. First with weight of 14 t will provide space for up to six astronauts and will be used for missions in close space, for example to deliver crew for placed on LEO Chinese space station Tiangong-2. Second version with weight of 20 t will be used for manned missions to Moon or deep space exploration. Comparing to smaller version it will be equipped in extended service module with greater amount of propellant. It will be able to deliver four astronauts to the Moon. Capsule will be identical in both versions but service module and propellant load will be different. Both versions will be launched on atop of two next generation Chinese rockets: Long March 5 and Long March 7. Project of the new spacecraft assumes replacing Shenzhou widely based on Russian Soyuz concept and technologies with definitely next generation vehicle. New spacecraft will be equipped with modular TPS for cost reducing and emergency escape system to provide additional safety for crew during launch. With new vehicle will be able to use landing zones over sea, what is impossible for Shenzhou. For landing on the ground, new vehicle will use drag parachutes, main parachutes, retro thrusters and special airbags installed on the bottom for shock absorbing. New spacecraft will be equipped with improved communication system, which will provide constant contact with ground control stations even during reentry. Comparing to Shenzhou vehicle will utilized new guidance system and avionics which will meet the requirements of increased reentry and flight speed. New spacecraft, along with ready to use Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, tested LM-7 rocket and Long March 5 which will be tested in 2016, proves that technologies of new generation seemed to be ready to use in Chinese space program.
On picture above: fragment of the Shenzhou capsule after reentry.