DHAKA: China will launch a manned spacecraft this month, state news agency Xinhua said Saturday, in the latest step in a programme aimed at giving the country a permanent space station by 2020, reports AFP.
The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and its carrier rocket have already been moved to the launch platform at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China, Xinhua said, quoting an official with the country`s manned space programme.
The launch -- China`s first manned space mission since September 2008 -- would occur "sometime in mid June", it said.
State media earlier reported that the mission would involve three astronauts manually docking with the Tiangong-1 module currently orbiting the Earth.
After the space rendezvous, the astronauts will move temporarily into the Tiangong-1 (Heavenly Palace), where they will perform scientific experiments.
In November, an unmanned Shenzhou VIII spacecraft returned to Earth after completing two space dockings with Tiangong-1 in the nation`s first ever hard-to-master "space kiss", bringing together two vessels in high speed orbit.
Mastering space docking technology is a delicate manoeuvre that the Russians and Americans successfully completed in the 1960s.
Tiangong-1, China`s first space station module, was launched in September.
China sees its space programme as a symbol of its global stature, growing technical expertise, and the Communist Party`s success in turning around the fortunes of the once poverty- stricken nation.
The current programme aims to provide China with a space station in which a crew can live independently for several months, as at the old Russian Mir facility or the International Space Station.
BDST: 1300 HRS, JUN 09, 2012
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