The astronauts were successfully sent into orbit on the Long March 2F rocket in the Shenzhou-12 manned spacecraft. The launch from the Jiuquan satellite launch centre in northwestern China took place at 09:22 Beijing time (01:22 GMT).

After entering orbit, the manned spacecraft should dock with the main module of the Chinese space station, forming a common structure with the main compartment of the station and the Tianzhou-2 cargo spacecraft, which was launched at the end of May.

China Launches Core Tianhe Module to Build Its Own Space Station
Tiangong is slated for completion in 2022 and is expected to operate for 10 years. However, according to experts, the station can last more than 15 years with proper repair. It will operate in low Earth orbit, at altitudes ranging from 340 km to 450 km.

After that, the astronauts will go to the main compartment of the Tianhe, where they will spend three months. The crew will prepare the station for full commissioning. They will be involved in monitoring environmental parameters, checking the functional characteristics of equipment, and going into outer space for repair work.

The crew included Chinese cosmonauts Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming, and Tang Hongbo. According to the plan, they will return to Earth in September 2021.

The Shenzhou-12 launch was China's first manned mission since 2016. In October 2016, the Shenzhou-11 manned spacecraft with two crew members on board was launched from the Jiuquan Cosmodrome.

China plans to deploy the new Chinese space station by 2022.