China's second manned space flight could be launched as early as next week, according to one report Sunday by state media.
Xinhua news agency said the two-man flight could be launched during the week-long holiday starting on National Day on October 1.
But a China News Service report from Hong Kong said Shenzhou VI would take off for a five-day flight from the Jiuquan launch center in the northern region of Inner Mongolia on October 13.
China has traditionally kept secret the launch dates of its fledgling manned space program. The launch of the 2003 Shenzhou V manned space flight was not announced until it had taken place successfully.
The China News Service report said the launch was scheduled for 11:00 am (0300 GMT) on October 13 but the time could change due to weather and ongoing preparations.
The entire rocket, including the return capsule and an orbiting vehicle, has been assembled and is standing at the Jiuquan launch pad, the report said.
Three two-men teams have been chosen from 14 candidates as the crew to pilot the vehicle, with the final crew to be named in the days before the launch.
Yang Liwei became China's first man in space when his Shenzhou V orbited the Earth 14 times in a 21-hour flight. He was named as sole astronaut of the inaugural manned flight only hours before the launch.
During the upcoming flight, the crew are expected to conduct several space experiments from an attached orbital vehicle, which will remain in the Earth's orbit for months after the re-entry vehicle and its two astronauts have returned.
The orbital vehicle is designed to hook up with other similar orbital vehicles to form a space station, which will possibly be built by successive Shenzhou missions, the China News Service report said.
China is the third country to put a man in space following the former Soviet Union and the United States.
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State TV Begins Selling Ads For China's Manned Space Flight
Beijing (AFP) Sep 20, 2005
Despite strict secrecy surrounding the launch date of China's Shenzhou VI manned space flight, state television is already selling advertisements to promote the launch, state press said Tuesday.
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