Connect to share and comment

Shenzhou-9: China to make manned space flight mid-June

China plans to send three astronauts into space aboard its Shenzhou-9 spacecraft this month.

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 Shenzhou-9 spacecraft will make a manned flight this month, the country's space agency has announced.

According to Xinhua, the spacecraft and its carrier rocket have already been moved to a launch pad at the Jiuquan space center in northwest China.

It is expected to take off "sometime in mid-June," a space agency official told the state news agency.

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

Three astronauts will be aboard. The crew might include female astronauts, said Niu Hongguang, deputy commander of China's manned space program.

If so, they would be the first Chinese women to go into space, according to Agence France Presse.

The astronauts will dock Shenzhou-9 manually with China's orbiting Tiangong-1 space laboratory, where two of them will board and conduct experiments.

It will be the first time a manned spacecraft has docked with Tiangong-1, which has been in orbit around earth since Sept. 2011. China hopes the space lab will help it one day develop its own space station.

This month's flight will be China's fourth manned launch since it became the third country to send a man into space in 2003, the BBC said.

In December, China said it was studying the possibility of landing one of its astronauts on the moon.

More from GlobalPost: China pulls ahead in moon race

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/asia-pacific/china/120609/shenzhou-9-china-manned-space-flight-june