China has announced plans to launch the manned Shenzhou-10 spaceship in early June 2013, moving the country one step closer to its goal of constructing a space station.
Niu Hongguang, deputy commander-in-chief of China's manned space program, told the official Chinese news agency Xinhua, the Shenzhou-10 crew will remain in space for 15 days. The crew will operate both manual and automated docking procedures with the orbiter Tiangong-1, the first part of a planned Chinese space station.
He went on to say the crew will be:
"conducting scientific experiments in the lab module and giving science lectures to spectators on the Earth. The success of this mission might enable China to construct a space lab and a space station."
The announcement follows the successful flight of the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft earlier this year. That mission marked the launch of China's first woman into space. The mission also marked a successful manned docking test crucial to Beijing's planned space station.The Shenzhou-10 mission will most likely include 2 male and 1 female astronauts according to Reuters.
The Tiangong-1, which was launched in 2011, weighs approximately 8 tons. It is a short and thick cylinder which houses a docking port on its front and rear ends. There are two modules on the Tiangong-1, an experiment module and resource module. The front end of the experiment module contains the docking mechanism, along with measuring and communication equipment used to support docking with spaceships. The resource module houses the power supply.
According to Space Daily, China plans to build a space station by 2020.