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3 factors likely to affect rocket blastoff
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Experts said Tuesday though China's Long March 3A has completed 14 successful launches in a row, there are three major factors that may affect its coming task to launch the nation's first lunar orbiter.

The factors include operating errors by staff on the launch site, unfavorable weather and the quality of the rocket itself.

According to the experts, weather may delay the launch and the rocket will not be able to take off if there is thunder, heavy rain or high winds.

Jin Zhiqiang, deputy command-in-chief of the rocket system of China's lunar probe program, said harsh weather could cause short circuits in electronic components in the rocket. Meanwhile, if tubes and valves of the Long March 3A, which is a low-temperature rocket, are frozen, and are not defrosted in time, launch could be delayed so much that they might miss their favourable launch window.

Earlier media reports said China was planning to launch its first moon orbiter at around 6:00 PM on October 24 from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern China's Sichuan Province.

The lunar satellite has been named Chang'e I after the legendary Chinese goddess who, according to legend, flew to the moon.

"The satellite will be launched between October 24 and 26 and our first choice is around 6:00 PM on October 24,"a spokesman for the China National Space Administration (CNSA) said.

"What is worrying me most is the possibility that there is still something we haven't thought of,"said Ye Peijian, chief designer and command-in-chief of the satellite system of China's lunar probe program.

"We've exerted 200 percent efforts to ensure a 100 percent success," Ye added.

"We've envisaged 84 possible failures in the rocket and satellite, and we've solved them during our drills,"Ye said.

"But if there is something that we did not think of, there will be trouble,"he added.

The lunar probe is expected to enter earth-moon transfer orbit on October 31 and arrive in the moon's orbit on November 5.

The satellite will relay the first pictures of the moon in late November and will then continue scientific explorations of the moon for a year.

The orbiter will carry out a series of projects including acquiring 3-D images and analyzing the distribution of elements on the moon's surface, according to the spokesman.

"Experts from foreign space administrations have been invited to watch the launch on site," said the CNSA spokesman.

"China welcomes international cooperation in space activities," he said.

China hopes to become the 17th nation to join the International Space Station (ISS) project, Vice Minister of Science and Technology Li Xueyong said on the sidelines of the 17th National Congress of the Communist Party of China last week.

The Chinese government has been pursuing a policy of peaceful use of airspace, Li said.

The satellite launch will mark the first step of China's three-stage moon mission, which will lead to a moon landing and launch of a moon rover around 2012. In the third phase, another rover will land on the moon and return to earth with lunar soil and stone samples for scientific research around 2017.

China carried out its maiden piloted space flight in October 2003, making it only the third country in the world after the former Soviet Union and the United States to have sent men into space. In October 2005, China completed its second manned space flight, with two astronauts on board.

(Xinhua News Agency October 24, 2007)

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