Cold front may affect Shenzhou's liftoff date

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 08 October, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 08 October, 2005, 12:00am

Cold weather could delay the launch of China's second manned space mission next week, state media reported yesterday.

But preparations were in full swing for Shenzhou VI's scheduled liftoff, with the rocket installed on the launch gantry yesterday and three teams of astronauts in the running to crew the mission due to arrive at the Jiuquan Space Launch Centre in Gansu in the next few days.

Yao Bingdai, of the Jiuquan centre's meteorological office, said weather forecasts showed that a cold air mass would be affecting the region between Wednesday and Friday, the tentative launch window, according to a report in Modern Bulletin.

An anonymous source told the paper a postponement due to poor weather could not be ruled out.

New Express quoted Shenzhou V chief designer Qi Faren as saying that Shenzhou VI was scheduled to take off next Wednesday, though a delay was possible if the weather turned bad.

Qianjiang Evening News quoted unidentified staff at the centre as saying the pair of astronauts to pilot the flight for a five-day space journey would only be finalised five hours before liftoff.

A heart rate of 70 beats per minute is said to be among the criteria to be used to select the candidates. A final test of the rocket's fuel system had been conducted, the Central News Agency reported.

China's first astronaut, Yang Liwei , has also moved into the Jiuquan centre.