Beijing: China will launch its third lunar probe, Chang'e-3, to land a rover on Moon next year keeping up the momentum of its space programme after its recent successful experiment of space docking to build a station of its own by 2020.

The mission would be launched in the second half of next year, the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defence announced.

The launch of the Chang'e-3, named after the Chinese goddess of the moon, is part of the second step of China's three-phrase lunar probe project of orbiting, landing and returning.

The third mission would land a rover on the moon surface and return. This is regarded as prelude its manned mission to Moon.

China launched the Chang'e-1 in 2007 and the Chang'e-2 in 2010.

The first probe retrieved scientific data and a complete map of the moon while the second one created a full higher-resolution map of the moon and a high-definition image of Sinus Iridium.

China is currently carrying out an ambitious space programme which included missions to Moon, building of its space station as well as its own global positioning system to rival the United States' GPS.

Since last year, China has started a programme to launch 100 rockets and 100 satellites by 2015 and has been making 20 launch missions a year to accomplish it.

Two days ago Chinese space scientists said they successfully tested a new 120-tonne-thrust liquid oxygen (LOX) and kerosene engine for its new generation carrier rocket, the Long March-5 for future space launches.

The LOX/kerosene engine underwent a test of a high rotational speed of nearly 20,000 revolutions per minute and a high temperature test of 3,000 degrees Celsius that lasted for 200 seconds.

The large-thrust carrier rocket under development is hoped to make its maiden voyage in 2014.


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