Chinese astronauts Nie Haisheng (C), Liu Boming (R) and Tang Hongbo

Chinese astronauts Nie Haisheng (C), Liu Boming (R) and Tang Hongbo

China will tomorrow send a crewed mission to space, who will establish its space station, Xinhua, its news agency reported Wednesday.

The Shenzhou-12 manned spaceship is expected to be launched at 9:22 a.m. Thursday (Beijing Time) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, announced the China Manned Space Agency (CMSA).

The spaceship will take three male astronauts — Nie Haisheng, the oldest, who is 56, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo — into space for the construction of China’s space station, said Ji Qiming, assistant to the director of the CMSA, at a press conference held at the launch center.

After entering orbit, the spaceship will conduct a fast automated rendezvous and docking with the in-orbit space station core module Tianhe, forming a complex with the core module and the cargo craft Tianzhou-2.

The astronauts aboard Shenzhou-12 will be stationed in the core module and remain in orbit for three months.

The launch will be carried out with a Long March-2F carrier rocket, which will be filled with propellant on Wednesday morning, Ji said.

China launched the space station core module Tianhe on April 29 and the cargo spacecraft Tianzhou-2 on May 29. According to Ji, the complex of the two spacecraft has been in good condition, with all equipment operating normally.

The complex has moved into an orbit at an altitude of 390 kilometers, ready for the rendezvous and docking as well as the entry of the astronauts, Ji said.

All systems conducting the Shenzhou-12 mission have undergone the comprehensive rehearsal, the crew is in good shape, and all pre-launch preparations are in order, Ji added.

Nie, 56, a former air force pilot, will be the oldest Chinese astronaut to go to space.

Shenzhou-12, meaning “Divine Vessel”, is the third of 11 missions needed to build China’s space station. Construction began in April with the launch of Tianhe, the first and largest of three modules.