China's first Mars probe to ride a Russian rocket

Mumbai: China is pressing ahead with the launch its first Mars probe in October 2009, in a joint mission with Russia.

The homegrown Chinese satellite is scheduled for completion in June 2009.

Engineers are working round-the-clock with the project - Yinghuo-1 - for a synchronised launching with the Russian Phobus-Grunt probe, reports quoting sources at the Shanghai Institute of Satellite Engineering said.

The satellite, 75 cm long, 75 cm wide, 60 cm high and weighing 110 kg, is designed to serve a two-year mission, Xinhua news agency quoted the sources as saying.

A Russian carrier rocket will launch the Chinese satellite along with Russia''s Phobos-Grunt. The satellites are expected to land on Mars in 2010 after a 10 month''s flight, sources said.

Yinghuo I will be loaded with scientific devices for taking pictures of the planet, analysing magnetic levels and exploring the reason of the disappearance of water etc.

Current Chinese rockets are not powerful enough to send their orbiters to Mars at present. But it plans to develop a Mars-capable rocket, codenamed Long March V, over the next 10 years, sources said.

China is also building a new launch pad on Hainan Island, in a similar latitude to United States space headquarters in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

The development of the probe started at the Shangai Academy of Spaceflight in late 2006, and a prototype will be ready by April 2006. A model of the probe vehicle is on display at an ongoing space exhibition in Shanghai.