China Confirms June 16 for First Space Station Crew Launch, Including First Woman Astronaut

China Confirms June 16 for First Space Station Crew Launch, Including First Woman Astronaut

China’s CCTV television (in English) confirmed today that China’s first space station crew will be launched on June 16, 2012 and will include China’s first woman astronaut.  

Previously China said only that the launch would take place in mid-June, but June 16 had been identified as a likely date by independent analysts, with launch around 10:30 am GMT (6:30 am EDT).

The announcement came after a successful four-and-a-half hour dress rehearsal of the Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and Long March IIF rocket at the Jiuquan launch site.  One brief CCTV video report shows three space-suited astronauts boarding the spacecraft while the announcer states that the crew includes a female. 

A longer second CCTV video report features a woman reporter who summarizes the test and the upcoming mission.  She adds that the crew will spend 10-12 days in space and the female astronaut will perform scientific experiments while the men “perform the flying as well as conducting the … rendezvous and docking part” of the mission.

The final crew will not be chosen until Friday, the reporter said, but a woman will be included.  The astronauts who participated in today’s test are “promising candidates” and will remain in quarantine for the remaining days before launch, she said. 

Chinese astronauts are usually referred to as taikonauts in the West, but the CCTV report refers to them as “astronauts.”

China’s Tiangong-1 space station was launched last fall.  The automated Shenzhou-8 spacecraft conducted rendezvous and docking operations with it in November.

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