China will begin the mass production of its Shenzhou (Divine Vessel) spacecraft starting from Shenzhou 8, the chief designer of the spacecraft system of China's manned space program told Xinhua Friday.
Zhang Bainan said the mass-produced model will serve as a shuttle between China's space station and the ground, and may also transport astronauts and cargo for other countries.
The ground test is already being done on the prototype of the Shenzhou 8, He said, adding that a raft of ground tests and the seven successful outer space missions from Shenzhou 1 to Shenzhou 7 have laid "solid technical foundation" for the confirmation of final design.
The finalized model would look roughly the same as the current one in use, but its interior decoration would be much comfier, he said.
He revealed that the finalized model, highly home-made, should be safer, more reliable and able to support three astronauts to fly for seven days and complete the task of space station docking. "The mass production would also allow intensive launch in a short period of time," he said.
Apart from finalizing the model of China's manned spaceship, another mission of the Shenzhou-8 was to seek for a breakthrough in the orbiter docking technology, a must step for the ultimate goal of building a permanent space laboratory and a space engineering system that allow astronauts to conduct scientific experiments of larger scale.
The transportation vehicles currently in use between space stations and the ground are mainly space shuttles of the United States and Russia's Soyuz spacecraft.
Chinese technicians would make a history if they could finalize the design of its manned spacecraft after launching only eight space vehicles, he said.