China's space agency will launch two new rockets into space in 2016, as it prepares for a potential moon mission, the country's Xinhua news agency reported on Saturday.
One of the rockets, Long March-5 which has a payload capacity larger than that of Russia's Proton rocket used for commercial satellite launches, is expected to complete a mission to the Moon in 2017. Long March-5, a smaller variant similar to Russia's Soyuz-FG is expected to be used for a future space station.
"The two carrier rockets' maiden flights will significantly boost our country's ability to enter space and help realize leapfrog development in our space transportation system," the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation statement said.
China's 2017 moon mission aims to be an expansion of its 2013 landing on the Moon, for the purpose of bringing back rock samples for the first time.
China plans to launch a space station similar in dimensions to Russia's now-defunct Mir by around 2020. A smaller non-modular station called Tiangong-2 is expected to be launched in 2016, Xinhua earlier confirmed.