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China to launch 4th manned spaceflight

China’s fourth manned spaceflight will blast off between June and August of this year, Chinese state media reported today.

China space laboratory 2011 09 29Enlarge
A Long March 2F rocket carrying the country's first space laboratory module Tiangong-1 lifts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on September 29, 2011 in Jiuquan, Gansu province of China. The unmanned Tiangong-1 will stay in orbit for two years and dock with China's Shenzhou-8, -9 and -10 spacecraft for China's eventual goal of establishing a manned space station around 2020. (Lintao Zhang/Getty Images)

China’s fourth manned spaceflight will blast off between June and August of this year, Chinese state media reported today, according to Space.com. China launched its first astronaut into space in 2003.

A crew of three will pilot the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft to China’s Tiangong 1 space lab, which has been orbiting Earth since Sept. 2011, Space.com reported.

Just 11 feet wide and 34 feet long and weighing 8.5 metric tons, Tiangong 1 is a prototype module for the 60-ton space station China plans to construct by 2020, Space.com reported. China is not part of the group of countries that operate the 400-ton International Space Station, Reuters reported.

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The three astronauts will manually dock their spacecraft at Tiangong 1, then move onboard to live and conduct science experiments in the module, Reuters reported.

Chinese space officials have hinted that China's first female astronaut will fly on Shenzhou 9 or on a second manned spaceflight planned for 2012, called Shenzhou 10, Space.com reported.

More from GlobalPost: China’s five-year space plans revealed
 

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/china/120217/china-launch-fourth-manned-spaceflight-tiangong