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China's new rocket carries 20 micro satellites

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China rocket
Space   Long March is going up again

China has launched a new, smaller type of rocket from its Long March family which will be used primarily for carrying satellites aloft, state media reported, as the country races ahead with an ambitious space programme.

The Long March-6, a newly developed carrier rocket which uses liquid propellant, took off from a launch base in northern Shanxi province carrying 20 "micro" satellites, the official Xinhua news agency said.

The rocket climbed into bluish-grey skies, footage aired by state broadcaster China Central Television (CCTV) showed.

One Chinese official suggested that the smaller rocket will make China more competitive in the lucrative market for commercial satellite launches.

"We believe it will greatly boost the competitiveness of Chinese carrier rockets in the international market," said Mr Zhang Weidong, chief designer at the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology.

"The new model will also significantly improve our ability to access space," he told Xinhua.

China launches its own satellites as it continues to build a navigation system, but also carries out launches for other countries and commercial companies.

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