China is ramping up preparations for that country's second human spaceflight later this year. According to the Xinhua news agency, 10 astronauts in five pairs are in the run-up to pilot the Shenzhou-6 spaceship.

The two-person crew will not be selected "until the last minute" said Huang Chunping, the chief launch vehicle designer of China's human spaceflight program, he was quoted as saying, based on a report in the Beijing Times newspaper Friday.

China's first piloted spaceflight was carried out in October 2003, a mission lasting a little over 21 hours in duration. At the controls of that craft was Yang Liwei - who is also among the trainees for the upcoming two-person space shot expected to last for over five days.

Huang also said Shenhou-6 will carry two new upgrades: a video transmission system so ground controllers can monitor the separation of the rocket and the spaceship live; and a better escape system for the pilots in case of emergencies. Lastly, Huang said the two space travelers would enter the roomy forward module of Shenzhou-6 to carry out experiments.

There are no plans for the crew to carry out a space walk, he said.