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China planning additional unmanned Shenzhou flights
Posted: Mon, Jul 23, 2001, 1:44 PM ET (1744 GMT)
Shenzhou illustration by Simon Zajc The Chinese government is reportedly planning a third unmanned test flight of Shenzhou, a prototype of a proposed manned spacecraft, in the near future. The Chinese-language newspaper Wen Wei Po reported Monday that the third Shenzhou flight would take place as soon as pre-launch preparations were in "full swing", according to a dispatch by the AFP news agency, although a specific launch date was not released. A fourth unmanned Shenzhou flight is also planned by the end of the year, according to the Chinese report. If the upcoming two flights are successful, it would clear the way for China's first human spaceflight some time in the second half of 2002. China has launched Shenzhou, a spacecraft at least superficially similar to the Russian Soyuz spacecraft, twice: in November 1999 and this January. The orbital module of the second Shenzhou spaceflight remains in orbit with several scientific experiments working, Chinese officials said earlier this month. Few other details about the Shenzhou 2 flight have been released, however, leading to speculation in the West that problems may have occurred while in orbit or during landing.
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