China's new-generation crewed spacecraft is expected to make its maiden flight around 2027 and 2028, according to a leader of the country's manned space program.
Yang Liwei, the first Chinese in space and a deputy chief planner of the nation's manned spaceflights, told a science teachers' forum in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, on Monday the new spaceship is in the research and development stage and will be capable of sending up to seven astronauts into space, Science and Technology Daily reported on Tuesday.
The newspaper quoted Yang as saying the new spaceship will be used in China's manned missions to the moon and deep space.
Designers at the China Academy of Space Technology have said once put into formal service, the new spaceship will feature world-class designs and technologies.
The new craft will consist of two major parts — a re-entry module that will house astronauts and serve as the control center during spaceflight, and a service module that will contain power and propulsion systems.
The vehicle will have a length of nearly 9 meters, a diameter of 4.5 meters and a weight of 22 metric tons.
Designers said compared with the Shenzhou series, the nation's current crewed spacecraft, the new model will be capable of conducting longer missions, housing more astronauts and cargo and operating in a tougher environment.