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New space center takes giant leap forward

China boldly began work Monday on a space launch center in Wenchang city in the northeast corner of the tropical island province of Hainan, laying more groundwork for the nation's more sophisticated space program.

The Hainan Space Launch Center, the fourth and most southerly in China, will be finished by 2013.

It will be capable of launching 10 to 12 vehicles a year.

The center will handle new-generation rocket-carriers and space vehicles, including geo-synchronous satellites, polar-orbiting satellites, space stations and deep-space exploration satellites, said Wang Weichang, director of the Hainan space center project headquarters.

Wang was speaking during the cornerstone-laying ceremony at the center.

Future manned flights into space will mainly be launched from Hainan, with some blasting off from Gansu province.

The Xichang launch center, in Sichuan province, will be the back-up for the Hainan center, said Zhang Ping, deputy director of the Hainan headquarters.

Experts say the Hainan site will be more convenient than the other three sites and be able to handle more payload. It will also cost less to launch vehicles from Hainan.

The current three space launch centers - in Jiuquan, Gansu (the country's first, built in 1958), Sichuan and Shanxi provinces - are inland and railways are used to transport rocket-carriers to the launch sites.

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 Source : China Daily  Editor: Ivy
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