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'China to mass produce spacecraft'

China will start "mass producing" its Shenzhou spacecraft, state media said, a day after launching its third ever manned mission into space.

world Updated: Sep 26, 2008 13:19 IST

China will start "mass producing" its Shenzhou spacecraft, state media said on Friday, a day after launching its third ever manned mission into space.

Mass production will begin of the Shenzhou VIII, the next model after the Shenzhou VII which was sent into orbit late on Thursday, Xinhua news agency said, citing Zhang Bainan, the system's chief designer.

The mass-produced model will serve as a shuttle between a planned space station and Earth, and it may also transport astronauts and cargo for other countries, according to Xinhua.

Ground tests have already begun on a Shenzhou VIII prototype, Xinhua quoted him as saying, but there was no mention of how many would actually be made.

Shenzhou VII blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China, carrying three astronauts.

One astronaut will attempt a space walk, the main purpose of the mission and considered a key step towards enabling China to build its own space station.

Each generation of the Shenzhou craft marks a significant upgrade from the previous one.

Shenzhou VII features 220 technical modifications compared with Shenzhou VI, which took two astronauts into orbit in 2005, the China Daily said on Friday.

China first sent a man into space in 2003, becoming the third nation after the United States and the former Soviet Union to accomplish the feat.

Thursday's launch was considered an important symbol of China's emergence as a space power.

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