Rocket for Shenzhou VI to be ready in 2005
China will see the shipment of the carrier rocket for Shenzhou VI, the country's second manned space flight to be launched in 2005, in June or July next year, revealed a top scientist Monday.
Liu Zhusheng, the chief designer of the rocket, said Shenzhou VI would also be blasted off by a Long March II F carrier rocket, the same type used in the landmark space flight last October.
The rocket was currently in production and would undergo a comprehensive test at the beginning of next year, he said.
Shenzhou VI was preparing to take two people into space for a flight lasting five to seven days to further test the practical capability of the spacecraft, said Wang Yongzhi, the chief designer of China's manned space program.
"Crew increases and flight time will add to the weight of food and equipment in the aircraft, which requires us to make a series of changes in the rocket to enhance its carrying capacity," Liu said.
He disclosed that Shenzhou VI might weigh over eight tons, while the Shenzhou V spacecraft weighed only 7.79 tons, according to a report from Tuesday's Beijing Morning Post.
"The reliability of the Long March II F carrier rocket has reached 97 percent, much higher than the 91 to 93 percent of most rockets," he said. He did not specify criteria for calculating this figure.
China is currently training a group of 14 astronauts, two of whom will be selected for the second space flight, including stepping into the orbital module and conducting various types of experiments there.
Under a plan, China will build a space station and land an unmanned spacecraft on the moon by 2010.
China followed in the footsteps of the Soviet Union and the United States to
achieve the manned space flight last October, when astronaut Yang Liwei orbited
the earth 14 times.