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China breaks ground on new space launch centre: state media

world Updated: Sep 14, 2009 12:24 IST

AFP
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China began the construction of its fourth space launch centre on Monday as the nation gears up for future manned space flights aboard a new generation of carrier rockets, state media reported.

Work started on the Wenchang Space Satellite Launch Centre on southern Hainan Island, which will become China's first coastal launching pad when completed in 2013, the Hainan Daily reported.

Chang Wanquan, member of the powerful Central Military Commission, and Chen Qiufa, head of the State Commission for Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence, attended Monday's groundbreaking ceremony, the report said.

China's space programme is run by the nation's military.

The Hainan site is being built to accommodate the Long March CZ-5 carrier rocket, which will be able to carry larger payloads and is slated to become the workhorse of China's manned space and space station programme, it said.

The Long March 5 is expected to take its maiden flight by 2014, previous news reports have said.

China put its first astronaut into space in 2003, becoming the third nation to do so following the former Soviet Union and the United States.

In September last year, three Chinese astronauts, or "taikonauts," carried out the country's first space walk during a 68-hour voyage on board the Shenzhou VII spacecraft.

The Shenzhou programme is expected to form the basis for China's planned space station.