China to build fourth space launch site

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Beijing, Sep 24: China, the third country to put a man in space, is to build a fourth rocket launchpad on its southern tropical resort island of Hainan, state media said today, an idea first suggested in 1999.

The base, in Wenchang, 60 km south of the provincial capital of Haikou, was expected to include a command centre, a rocket assembly plant, a launch base and a theme park, the China Daily said.

''Wenchang's low-latitude and geographic proximity to the Equator will increase capacity for rocket carriers and extend the life span of satellites,'' Xinhua news agency said.

The nearer to the Equator a rocket is launched, the bigger the slingshot effect from the spinning Earth, making the launch more cost-effective.

China, planning its first lunar probe by the end of this year, currently has three other bases, all inland.

Jiuquan in northwestern Gansu province hosted China's first rocket launch in 1958. The two other facilities are in Taiyuan, in northern Shanxi, and Xichang, in southwestern Sichuan.

In 2003, China put a man in space, becoming only the third country to do so after the former Soviet Union and the United States, and launched a second manned space flight in 2005.

The Wenchang site is expected to be completed around 2010.

Reuters>

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