In preparing to send China's first astronauts into space, an unspecified number of unmanned space flights are being planned.
China is preparing for the launch of its second spaceship, reported China News Service yesterday, citing launch officials.
"The flight is expected to take place around October this year," it added.
The Shenzhou One unmanned space flight successfully orbited the earth 14 times on November 20 and its space capsule returned safely to the grasslands of Inner Mongolia.
The Shenzhou One was launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Centre in Gansu Province on a Chinese Long March 2-F carrier rocket, capable of carrying greater payloads than other Long March-series rockets that China uses to launch satellites.
Unnamed officials with the launch programme said astronauts were already undergoing training for manned space flights, but cautioned that the former Soviet Union ran seven unmanned flights before sending a man into space, while the United States undertook 21 test flights.
The report quoted rocket expert Wang Yongzhi as saying that China would first attempt to send astronauts into low orbit and eventually planned to conduct space walks and build a space station.
The initial test flight of the space craft was held a month after the October 1, 50th anniversary of the People's Republic, while yesterday's announcement came a day ahead of the 73rd anniversary of the People's Liberation Army.
The goal of China's manned space programme is to observe the earth from space, conduct scientific and technological studies and establish technology for transporting astronauts to a space station, the report said.
Agencies via Xinhua