Beijing: China will launch its next manned space flight on Tuesday, carrying three astronauts on a 15-day mission to an experimental space lab, the National Space Administration said.

The Shenzhou 10 spacecraft will launch from a remote site in the Gobi desert at 5:38 p.m. (0938 GMT), Wu Ping, spokeswoman for China's manned space programme, said on Monday.

Once in orbit, the craft will dock with the Tiangong (Heavenly Palace) 1, a trial space laboratory module, and the two male and one female astronauts will carry out various experiments and test the module's systems.

China is still far from catching up with the established space superpowers -- the United States and Russia. But the Shenzhou 10 mission will be the latest show of China's growing prowess in space and comes while budget restraints and shifting priorities have held back US manned space launches.

It will be China's fifth manned space mission since 2003.


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