China to Launch Astronauts to Space Station Soon

A taikonaut emerges from China's Shenzhou 7 spacecraft after a successful orbital flight

Xinhua has an update on China’s human spaceflight program:

China will launch its Shenzhou-9 manned spacecraft sometime in mid-June to perform the country’s first manned space docking mission with the orbiting Tiangong-1 space lab module, a spokesperson said here Saturday.

The spacecraft and its carrier rocket, the Long March-2F, were moved to the launch platform at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on Saturday, a spokesperson with the country’s manned space program said….

Niu Hongguang, deputy commander-in-chief of the country’s manned space program, said in March that the three-person crew on Shenzhou-9 might include female astronauts, but the final selection would be decided “on the very last condition.”

The target module Tiangong-1, which blasted off on Sept. 29, 2011, went into long-term operation in space awaiting the docking attempts of the Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10 after completing China’s first space docking mission with the unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft in early November

This will be China’s first human spaceflight in near four years. A three-man crew launched into space aboard Shenzhou 7 on Sept. 28, 2008. Two of the astronauts conducted a spacewalk.