China to build new series of rocket launchers

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Beijing, Oct 31: China is to build a new family of rocket launchers designed to send space stations or heavyweight satellites into orbit, state media reported today, in the latest expansion of its space programme.

The Long March 5 carrier rockets will be made in the northern port city of Tianjin, but will be launched from a new centre being built on the southern tropical island of Hainan, the China Daily newspaper said.

The sites were chosen to allow the rockets, which are too big to be transported by rail, to be moved by sea.

''They are expected to meet the demands of space technology development and peaceful use of space for the next 30 to 50 years,'' the newspaper quoted Wu Yansheng, president of the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, as saying.

''It will also give China the same launch capabilities as developed countries,'' he said, adding that the international commercial launch market was a lucrative one.

The next generation rockets are not expected to blast off before 2013, the report said.

The announcement comes a week after China launched a lunar orbiter, the Chang'e 1, using a Long March 3A rocket. The orbiter will spend more than a year scanning the moon's surface in preparation for an unmanned moon vehicle planned for 2012 and a manned landing in the future.

Chang'e 1 arrived at its farthest point from earth -- some 120,000 km (75,000 miles) -- yesterday, setting a distance record for China's space industry.

Beijing says its intentions in space are peaceful, but its push in the sector has raised fears of a space arms race with the United States, particularly since China launched a missile to blow up one of its own satellites in January.


REUTERS
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