BEIJING – China plans to launch another manned spacecraft Shenzhou X in early June 2013, a lead space program official said here Saturday.
Like in the Shenzhou IX mission, the crew might include two men astronauts and a woman, who are scheduled to enter the Tiangong-1 space lab module, Niu Hongguang, deputy commander-in-chief of China’s manned space program, said on the sidelines of the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China.
“They will stay in space for 15 days, operating both automated and manual space dockings with the target orbiter Tiangong-1, conducting scientific experiments in the lab module and giving science lectures to spectators on the Earth,” he said, adding that the selection for the crew will begin in early 2013.
In the coming mission, Shenzhou X will offer ferrying services of personnel and supplies for Tiangong-1, further testing the astronauts’ abilities of working and living in space, as well as the functions of the lab module, he said.
“The success of this mission might enable China to construct a space lab and a space station,” he said.
Tiangong-1 was sent into space in September 2011. It docked with the Shenzhou-8 unmanned spacecraft last November and the manned Shenzhou IX in June this year, verifying China’s space docking capabilities.
Shenzhou IX carried the first Chinese woman Liu Yang, together with two male crew mates, into outer space.
“After more than a year of operation in space, Tiangong-1 is still in good condition,” Niu said.
China initiated the manned space program in 1992. It successfully sent Yang Liwei, the country’s first astronaut, into orbit on Shenzhou V spacecraft in 2003.
China plans to build its own space station in around 2020.