China builds rocket for 2008 manned space flight

China has begun construction of a rocket to carry astronauts into orbit in 2008 for its third manned space launch, state media reported Monday.

The Shenzhou 7 was initially scheduled to fly next year, but the government announced a delay last month, saying it needed time to prepare a spacesuit for a planned space walk.

Jing Muchun, the manned space program's chief designer, said better quality parts would be used for the rocket carrier and scientists would upgrade sections of the craft to improve its reliability, the Xinhua News Agency said.

It quoted Jing as saying designers also are "considering adding more cameras."

Xinhua and newspaper reports didn't give a date for the flight or other details.

But officials earlier said the mission probably would include a spacewalk and possible maneuvers meant to practice docking at a planned Chinese space station.

China's first manned space launch in 2003 made this only the third country to send a human into orbit on its own, after the former Soviet Union and the United States.

A second space flight carrying two astronauts took place in October, reports the AP.

I.L.