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China's Shenzhou VI to be launched in fall 2005
Updated: 2004-05-13 09:03

China will launch its second manned space mission, the "Shenzhou VI", next fall on a flight to be piloted by two astronauts.

The two astronauts will also leave the space capsule and descend into the orbital module where they will conduct experiments, revealed Qi Faren, the chief designer of Shenzhou.

China became the third nation to succeed in manned space flight when it launched the Shenzhou V, Divine Vessel V, last October, carrying sole astronaut Yang Liwei around the earth 14 times.

Yang never left his seat in the return module during his one-day break-through flight that was mainly aimed at testing the reliability and safety of the spacecraft.

Qi, who was speaking at a symposium in eastern Zhejiang province, said one of the major differences between China's space program and the early space flights of the former Soviet Union and the United States is that the orbital module of the Shenzhou series spaceships can stay in space for extended periods of time.

"The Shenzhou orbital module has the capacity to stay in orbit after the astronauts return to earth by using solar panels to provide power allowing the orbital capsule to stay in space for up to half a year," Qi said.

The Shenzhou V orbital module was still circling the earth, although it ended its space experiments in March.

Chinese space officials earlier announced that the Shenzhou VI would be launched in 2005, but were not precise on an exact date or the numbers of astronauts manning the vehicle.

Officials had earlier said the flight could last between five and seven days.

Plans for a Shenzhou VII flight are already in the works for sometime before 2010 and include China's first-ever space walk, state press reports said.

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