Astronauts Nie Haisheng (left) and Fei Junlong solute during a ceremony commemorating the success of China's second manned space mission in Beijing October 25, 2005. [Xinhua]
The manned spacecraft Shenzhou VII will likely be launched into orbit in October 2008, shortly after the Beijing Olympic Games, said Pang Zhihao, researcher with the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST).
Three astronauts will be on this space trip and there will be a live broadcast of the space walk, the researcher added, according to the Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post.
"This is the first time for us to do this and it will be very exciting," he said.
Zhao said the first Chinese astronauts performing spacewalk would likely be roped with the spacecraft, for the considerations of safety, oxygen supply and communication connection.
China has launched two manned spacecraft, Shenzhou V and Shenzhou VI, in 2003 and 2005, sending three astronauts into the space in the two missions. China is now the third country, after the United States and Russia, that is capable of sending astronauts into the space.
New rocket set to blast off by 2013
TIANJIN: The country's next-generation launch vehicles for heavyweight satellites or space stations will be ready to blast off by 2013, a senior official has said.
The Long March 5 launch vehicle, to be made in the Binhai New Area of the northern coastal city of Tianjin, will be 59.4 meters long, with a launch weight of 643 tons and a lift-off thrust of 825 tons, Zhang Yanhe, deputy director of the Tianjin Office of Science Technology and Industry for National Defense, said.
The diameter will be increased to 5 meters from 3.35 meters in the current-generation Long March 3 series.
Zhang said the new rockets will be able to carry up to 25 tons to near-Earth orbits, up from the current 9 tons; and 14 tons to geosynchronous orbits, up from 5 tons. "Such carriers can launch heavyweight satellites or even space stations, which the current Long March 3-A rockets cannot handle," Zhang told China Daily.
A 200-hectare rocket-building base is under construction in Binhai, and Zhang said work on production of the new rockets will start in December 2009 as soon as the construction is completed.
"Research and tests on key technologies of the new rockets have been completed. According to our initial schedule, the rocket will be ready for its first lift-off about five years from now," he said.
Zhang revealed that the construction of the base will cost about 4.5 billion yuan ($529 million).
"The capability of the base can be expanded for even bigger rockets of diameters of 8 meters or even 10 meters," he said.
Complementing the rocket-building base is a launch center under construction at Wenchang, South China's Hainan Province.
Currently, the country has three launch centers in Gansu, Shanxi and Sichuan, all inland. The construction of the Wenchang base is expected to finish by 2012.
There have been reports suggesting that the Chang'e II and III - to be used in the next stages of the lunar program - are likely to lift off atop the new carrier rockets.