He was born in May 1966 in Jinzhou, to a family of Manchu ethnicity and was a squadron commander in the People’s Liberation Army Air Force when he was selected to be an Astronaut in 1998. He had accumulated 1000 flight-hours as of 2004. He was selected as part of the backup crew for the Shenzhou 9 mission. In 2013, he was selected to fly Shenzhou 10, the third spaceflight to the first Chinese space station Tiangong 1.
Shenzhou 10 was launched on 11 June 2013, at 09:38 UTC (17:38 local time) on a Long March 2F rocket. It docked to the Tiangong-1 space station, and the crew spent 12 days on board. Zhang returned to Earth on Wednesday, June 26, 2013 00:07 UTC. Total mission duration was 4 days 14 hours and 29 minutes.