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China set to launch next manned spacecraft in Oct. 2008

RIA Novosti

20/11/2007 15:48 BEIJING, November 20 (RIA Novosti) - China is planning to launch its next manned spacecraft in October 2008, a researcher at the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) said on Tuesday.

The spacecraft Shenzhou VII with three astronauts on board is likely to lift off after the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, Pang Zhihao was cited as saying in the Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post, adding that during the mission the astronauts will carry out a space walk.

"This is the first time for us to do this and it will be very exciting," he said, adding that the space walk would be broadcast live.

The Shenzhou VII launch will be the third manned space mission launched by China. In 2003 and 2005 the Shenzhou V and Shenzhou VI spacecraft blasted off sending three astronauts into space.

China is only the third country capable of launching manned spaceflights, after the United States and Russia.

A senior space official was quoted as saying that China's next-generation launch vehicles capable of carrying heavyweight satellites, and even, space stations into space will be ready for launch by 2013.

The Long March 5 carrier rocket, which will be constructed at Binhai on the north coast, will have a launch weight of 643 metric tons and a length of 59.4 meters, Zhang Yanhe, deputy director of the Tianjin Office of Science Technology and Industry for National Defense, said.

"Such carriers can launch heavyweight satellites or even space stations, which the current Long March 3-A rockets cannot handle," Zhang told the China Daily.

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