China space launch on track for mid-June

June 9, 2012 at 11:43 AM

BEIJING, June 9 (UPI) -- China's space agency said Saturday it would launch a trio of astronauts into space later this month on a mission to an orbiting Chinese space station.

The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and its Long March launch rocket were in place at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and undergoing final checks ahead of blastoff sometime in mid-June, an agency spokesman told China's official Xinhua news agency.

Shenzhou-9 will be China's first manned space mission; however the final selection of the crew was still pending Saturday. Xinhua said the astronauts would be named at the last minute and could include at least one woman.

Once in space, Shenzhou-9 will rendezvous with the Tiangong-1 space lab. Testing the docking capabilities of the spacecraft is a primary goal of the mission.

Tiangong was placed in orbit last year and linked up with the unmanned Shenzhou-8 last fall.

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