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Astronauts arrive at launch center
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A panel of six Chinese astronauts arrived at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern Gansu Province on Sunday, making the last-minute preparations for the country's third manned space mission.

Taking a special flight to the remote center, three qualified spacemen and three substitutes said they had "full confidence to successfully accomplish the mission" after various trainings and tests.

The astronauts will pilot spacecraft Shenzhou VII to carry out the mission during which one of them will spacewalk outside the capsule.

The spacecraft has been planned to be launched at an appropriate time between September 25 and 30 after the spaceship, its carrier Long-March II-F rocket and the escape tower were vertically transferred to the launch pad on Saturday.

All the six astronauts prepared for Shenzhou VII were once trained and tested at Jiuquan center more than two weeks ago when they had a live experience to enter the spaceship and learned the mission's whole process in an all-ready simulation.

The six spacemen now had moved to their special accommodation to be quarantined and to adjust their psychological conditions for the mission.

The Long-March II-F rocket, developed in 1992, is said to be the most complicated and reliable carrier rocket in China's aviation history with all its launch mission successfully finished. So far the rocket had sent two manned spacecraft and four unmanned into space.

Since October 1996, the Long-March series rockets have successfully launched for 108 times. The Shenzhou VII project will be its 109th mission.

According to Jin Muchun, chief rocket system designer of the mission, the Long-March II-F will be given a thorough upgrade after sending the Shenzhou-7.

"The upgrading work will be finished by two steps," Jin told Xinhua. "all its technical parameters and designs will be replaced."

According to Jin, the first step will make the rocket lighter, smaller, more powerful and more integrated by improving its controlling and guiding parts and electronic devices.

The second step will change the fuel of the rocket, replacing its current combustion-supporting material by a new generation of full liquid oxygen.

On April 12, China launched a new space tracking ship to serve the Shenzhou VII spacewalk mission.

The new ship and its sister, Yuanwang-5 which was put into use a year ago, will play a key role in monitoring and controlling the mission.

China successfully put two manned spacecraft into orbit in 2003 and 2005 respectively, becoming the third country to send an astronaut into space after the United States and the Soviet Union (now Russia).

(Xinhua News Agency September 22, 2008)

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