China has begun building its fourth space launch centre, the Wenchang Space Satellite Launch Centre, for future manned space flights atop new generation launch vehicles.

The cosmodrome at China’s Hainan Island will be able to launch rockets such as the Long March CZ-5, which is capable of carrying larger payloads and is expected to become the vehicle of choice for manned flights and missions to the space station programme.

The Wenchang Centre, which will become China’s first coastal launching pad, will be completed in 2013 and the Long March 5 rocket is due for launch in 2014.

China conducted its first spacewalk from the Shenzhou VII spacecraft in September 2008.