updated 10/31/2007 8:33:40 AM ET 2007-10-31T12:33:40

China will build a new family of rockets, state media said Wednesday, a move that would boost the country's capabilities to put satellites and space stations in space.

The announcement follows China's successful launch a week ago of its first lunar probe — a leap forward in the Asian space race. Japan put a probe into orbit around the moon just weeks ago and India is likely to join the rivalry soon, with plans to send its own lunar probe into space in April.

The new Long March 5 rockets, which can be used to carry communication satellites and lunar probes, will be able to hold greater weight than the current batch.

They signal China's ambitions to have a greater presence in space in the next 30 to 50 years and desire to compete in the global market to launch commercial satellites, said the China Daily.

"It will also give China the same launch capabilities as developed countries," Wu Yansheng, the president of China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, was quoted as saying by the newspaper.

Telephones rang unanswered Wednesday at the news department of the State Commission of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense.

The Long March 5 rockets — named after the Long March of retreating Communist forces to a safe haven in northern province of Shaanxi in 1935 — will be made in the northeastern port city of Tianjin.

They will be launched from a new launch center based in the tropical island province of Hainan.

Because of the weight of the rockets, they will be transported by sea, rather than the conventional route overland, the paper said. The new generation of rockets will not be launchable until 2013, the China Daily said.

China's increasing presence is space has worried some. In January, China destroyed a satellite with a land-based anti-satellite missile from its southwestern Xichang spaceport.

The rockets also can be used to launch navigation satellites, which the U.S. military relies on for mapping enemy positions and launching missiles.

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