Beijing: China will launch its next manned spacecraft in October 2008, according to a report in Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post, which quotes a researcher at the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST).
According to a CAST official, Pang Zhihao, the spacecraft, Shenzhou VII will lift off after the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 with three astronauts on board. Zhihao also said added that the astronauts were likely to 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. Earlier missions in 2003 and 2005 saw the Shenzhou V and Shenzhou VI spacecraft launch three astronauts apiece into space.
China is now only the third country that has displayed the capability to launch manned space flights, after the United States and Russia.
A senior official, Zhang Yanhe, deputy director of the Tianjin Office of Science Technology and Industry for National Defense, has been quoted as saying that China''''s next-generation launch vehicles, capable of carrying heavyweight satellites, and even, space stations into space, would be ready for launch by 2013.
The Long March 5 carrier rocket will have a launch weight of 643 metric tons and a length of 59.4 meters. The rocket will be constructed at Binhai on the north coast.
"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.