China launches third crewed mission to new space station

The crewed spaceship Shenzhou-14, atop a Long March-2F carrier rocket, is launched from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, on June 5.

(CNN)China successfully launched another manned mission to its new space station on Sunday, sending three astronauts who will continue construction work for six months, China's Manned Space Agency (CMSA) announced.

The astronauts lifted off on the Shenzhou-14 spacecraft at 10:44 a.m. local time, launched by a Long March 2F rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, Inner Mongolia.
The team will live and work at the Tiangong Space Station's Tianhe core module for six months before returning to Earth in December. Tiangong means Heavenly Palace.
    The crew includes Chen Dong, Liu Yang and Cai Xuzhe, who are expected to dock with the space station about 6.5 hours after launch.
      Chen, the mission commander, was aboard China's Shenzhou-11 manned space mission in 2016 and previously held the record for longest stay in space by a Chinese astronaut. Liu became the first ever Chinese woman in space in 2012 on the Shenzhou-9 mission. And this will be Cai's first mission in space.
      Chinese astronauts Cai Xuzhe, Chen Dong and Liu Yang who will carry out the Shenzhou-14 spaceflight mission.
      This is the third crewed mission during the construction of the space station, which China plans to have fully crewed and operational by December 2022. The first crewed mission, a three-month stay by three other astronauts, was completed in September 2021. The second, Shenzhou-13, saw three astronauts spend six months in space for the first time.
      Six months is the standard mission duration for many countries -- but it is an important opportunity for Chinese astronauts to become accustomed to a long-term stay in space and help prepare future astronauts to do the same.
        Six space missions have been scheduled before the end of the year, including another crewed mission, two laboratory modules and two cargo missions.
        The team aboard Shenzhou-14 will help with the docking, setting up and testing of the two laboratory modules Wentian and Mengtian, which are set to launch in July and October.
        The modules will be assembled into a T-shaped structure, along with the Tianhe core cabin -- the main living space for the astronauts -- which will be expanded from 50 cubic meters to 110 cubic meters, the CMSA said. The astronauts will also conduct two to three spacewalks.
        At the end of the Shenzhou-14 mission, another three astronauts are expected to rotate and live with the crew for five to 10 days, bringing the number of Chinese astronauts in space at the same time to a record six.
        Once construction is completed, the Tiangong space station is expected to last for 15 years. China plans to launch two crewed missions and two cargo missions to the station every year, according to the CMSA.
        The Shenzhou-14 crewed spaceship and a Long March-2F carrier rocket before being transferred to the launching area in Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China, on May 29.