BEIJING, March 3 (Xinhua) -- The Long March 7 carrier rocket, one of China's latest generation of rockets, is expected to make its first voyage within the next five years, an official with the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology said Saturday.
Fuelled by an environmentally-friendly propellant, the Long March 7 is expected to have a launch capacity of 13.5 tonnes in low-Earth orbit and 5.5 tonnes in Sun-synchronous orbit, said Liang Xiaohong, deputy head of the academy, which is affiliated with the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.
"The Long March 7 will be able to carry cargo spacecraft for China's future space station program and fulfill the long-term needs of the country's manned space program," said Liang, who is currently attending the annual session of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), China's top political advisory body.
China plans to establish its own space lab around 2016 and a manned space station around 2020.
Liang said he expects the new generation of carrier rockets to phase out some of China's in-service rockets and handle the bulk of China's space missions by 2021.
China's Long March rockets currently in service include the Long March-1, Long March-2, Long March-3 and Long March-4 series.
China started the development of modern carrier rockets in 1956. Long March rockets have become the main carriers for satellite and spacecraft launches.
Long March rockets have been launched more than 150 times. China's Shenzhou spacecraft and lunar orbiters were all launched by Long March rockets.
Special Report: NPC, CPPCC Annual Sessions 2012