Beijing: Bracing up to launch a major space module on Tuesday to experiment with first docking system of its space station to catch up with US and Russia, China on Monday said it would launch its second manned space mission next year.

China is going to conduct another manned space mission by 2012, Wu Ping, spokesperson of the China manned space program told media at the Jiuquan satellite launch centre located in Gobi desert.

China plans to launch in 2012 spaceships Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10, which are expected to dock with China's first space lab module, Tiangong-1, (Heavenly Palace) launched last month.

She said Shenzhou-8, the unmanned test module would launched early morning on Tuesday to dock with Tiangong-1.

"At least one mission of the two (Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10) will be manned," Wu said.

The crew members have already been selected for the possible space docking mission in 2012 and are being trained for manual docking skills, Wu said.

Before the manned flight, China has to test the knowhow on space docking by launching the unmanned Shenzhou-8 on Tuesday and connecting it with the target orbiter Tiangong-1.

She said the maneuver to connect the two modules could be risky and fraught with dangers.

"It is fairly difficult and risky to link up two vehicles travelling at high speeds in orbit, with a margin of error of no more than 20 centimetres," Wu said.

There were incidents of collisions between space vehicles in the early days of docking attempts, and recent docking missions involving the International Space Station did not always run smoothly, Wu said.

Nearly 100 contingency plans have been prepared and exercised to address problems that may occur during the mission, Wu said, adding that all people involved in the mission are confident about a successful docking.

"Although the Shenzhou-8 is unmanned, we equip the spacecraft with devices recording real images and mechanical parameters during its flight, both of which are vital to future manned missions," Wu said.

Significantly the Chinese and German space scientists will conduct different experiments on Shenzhou-8.

"Chinese and German scientists will conduct 17 research programs aboard the Shenzhou-8 spacecraft," Wu said.

"Among the research programs, 10 will be dominated by China and six by Germany, and the two sides will jointly carry out one program.

"It is the first time for China's manned space program to carry out international cooperation in the field of space life science," Wu said.

She said the experiments are of great significance in promoting the study and development of micro gravity science and space life science.

China which began experimental rocket launches since 1960, launched its first satellite in 1970 followed up with first manned mission in 2003, when Shenzhou-5 module carried Yang Liwei, then 38, on board and returned after 21 hours and 14 trips around the Earth.

On September 25, 2008, China used a Long March-2F rocket to lift the spacecraft Shenzhou-7 into space from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

Zhai Zhigang successfully completed China's first-eve space walk. China became the third country in the world to conduct extravehicular activity in space, following the Soviet Union and US.

(Agencies)