Skip to main content

Watch China launch rocket in first crewed mission in 5 years

China has successfully launched its first crewed mission in five years as the nation continues with the expansion of its ambitious space program.

Replay! China launches crew to new space station

A Long March-2F rocket carrying three astronauts blasted off from a launch site in the Gobi desert in the northwest of the country shortly after 9:20 a.m. local time on Thursday, 17 June (9:20 p.m. ET, Wednesday).

Astronauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo are now on their way to China’s under-construction space station on the Shenzhou-12 spacecraft.

After reaching the space station in the coming hours, the astronauts will begin a three-month stay aboard its core Tianhe module that reached Earth orbit in April.

Their mission will involve preparing for the arrival of additional modules and integrating them into the main Tianhe section. This means the trio will have to perform numerous spacewalks during their time aboard the station.

Chinese space crew
Image used with permission by copyright holder

The plan is to finish building the space station by the end of 2022 and then use it to carry out science experiments in microgravity conditions.

China’s new space station is orbiting Earth at an altitude of about 230 miles, around 20 miles lower than the International Space Station.

The launch is part of broader efforts by China to become a major force in the field of space exploration alongside the U.S. Recent successful missions operated by the China National Space Administration have included putting a rover on Mars and the return of moon rocks from the lunar surface. It is also collaborating with Russia on plans to conduct further exploration of the moon, with plans that include the construction of a lunar space station.

Editors' Recommendations

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
Starliner astronauts give first tour of the docked spacecraft
Boeing's Starliner capsule docked at the ISS.

NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore have given space fans a tour of Boeing’s Starliner capsule, which is currently docked at the International Space Station (ISS).

The pair traveled to the ISS aboard the Starliner in the spacecraft’s first crewed flight, which launched from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida atop a ULA Atlas V rocket on Wednesday. The vehicle docked with the orbital outpost the following day.

Read more
Watch this stunning slow-motion footage of mighty Starship launch
SpaceX's Starship launching on its fourth test flight.

SpaceX achieved its most successful Starship flight yet on Thursday in a test that launched from its Starbase site in Boca Chica, Texas.

The world’s most powerful rocket created a colossal 17 million pounds of thrust as it roared away from the launchpad. SpaceX later shared some incredible slow-motion footage showing the vehicle -- comprising the first-stage Super Heavy booster and upper-stage Starship spacecraft -- climbing toward orbit.

Read more
How to watch the first crewed flight of the Starliner spacecraft
Boeing Space's Starliner spacecraft.

NASA Live: Official Stream of NASA TV

[UPDATE: The first crewed launch attempt on Monday, May 6, was scrubbed two hours before liftoff due to an issue with the Atlas V rocket. Several other target dates have also been scrapped to give engineers more time to fix a number of issues. NASA is now hoping to launch the Starliner on the morning of Wednesday, June 5. This article has been adjusted to include the new schedule.]

Read more