China to launch up to 16 satellites in 2009

China plans to launch 15 to 16 satellites this year, the official Xinhua news service reported Monday.

Zhang Jianqi, deputy chief commander of the manned space project, said China was "batch-producing" three spacecraft, Shenzhou-8, Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10.

Zhang, delegate to the National People's Congress (NPC), told reporters during the NPC meeting in Beijing that the global financial crisis "has no impact on China's space programs."

He said it was the first time China had developed three spacecraft at the same time.

China planned to launch unmanned space module Tiangong-1 by the end of 2010, he said. It was now selecting a new team of "taikonauts", with the possible inclusion of the country's first female astronaut. 

Another space industry official said earlier that the Shenzhou-8 and Shenzhou-9 spacecraft would be launched in 2011.

China has sent an average of eight satellites into space annually during the first two years of its 11th five-year-plan (2006-2010), Xinhua said.