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China's space program seeks approval for new-generation rocket
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  • BEIJING (AFP) Sep 16, 2004
    China's space program is expecting government approval this year to build a new and more powerful rocket that will serve as the nation's vehicle to explore the moon, state media said Thursday.

    According to Luan Enjie, director-in-chief of China's lunar exploration program, the new-generation carrier rocket will be developed over the next eight years, Xinhua news agency said.

    Luan said he hoped the new program would be approved by the government this year.

    The rocket is also expected to compete for lucrative satellite-launching business with a carrying capacity of up to 25 tons for low-orbit missions and 14 tons for higher-orbit missions, previous press reports said.

    China's current "Long March" rockets have a capacity of 12 tons for launch into the low earth orbit and 5.2 tons for launch into the geosynchronous transfer orbit.

    The new rocket will use environmentally-friendly and non-toxic fuel, such as liquefied hydrogen and oxygen propellants.

    China hopes to launch its own permanent manned space station within 15 years and has detailed plans to launch a lunar satellite in 2006 and land an unmanned craft on the moon in 2010.

    An unmanned craft is also slated to collect lunar dust by 2020, but so far China has not detailed plans to send a man to the moon.

    China became the third country after Russia and the United States to put a man in space when astronaut Yang Liwei orbited the earth 14 times last October in the Shenzhou V space mission.

    Its next manned space mission, the "Shenzhou VI", will be launched next year on a flight to be piloted by two astronauts, state media said earlier this year.

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