Posted: Sat, Jun 9, 2012, 8:41 AM ET (1241 GMT)
Chinese officials announced Saturday that it will launch its next human spaceflight mission, which will feature a docking with its experimental lab module already in orbit, around the middle of this month. The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and its Long March 2F rocket were moved to the launch pad at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China on Saturday in preparation for what officials said would be a "mid-June" launch. An exact launch date has not been announced. The spacecraft is expected to carry three Chinese astronauts, including perhaps the first female Chinese astronaut, on a mission to dock with the Tiangong-1 spacecraft, an experimental lab module designed to be a precursor for a future Chinese space station. China launched Tiangong-1 last September and the uncrewed Shenzhou-8 spacecraft successfully docked with the module last November.