China presses ahead with space program

China has started work on its fourth space center, in the southern province of Hainan.

The site will consist of a launch site, mission control and facilities for technology development and scientific experiments, according to state news agency Xinhua. It will be used to launch components for a future space station and deep space exploration, along with communications satellites.

The centre is due to open in 2013 at a latitude of 19 degrees north – further south than its other space centers, making it more suitable for launching geostationary communications satellites. According to the State Council and CPC central military committee, the rockets will be non-toxic and pollution-free – perhaps just a bit of a tall order.

China has big ambitions in space. As well as its planned space station, it is planning an unmanned moon landing in three years’ time and a manned lunar mission in 2017 – ahead of the US’s next visit.

Its other space centers are in Jiuquan, Taiyuan and Xichang. So far, these have carried out over 100 launches.