China will launch a new manned space mission in early June 2013, according to a top official of the Chinese space program, Niu Hongguang.

According to Niu, the "No. 2" in the program of Chinese manned space missions and cited by the official news agency Xinhua, the mission - Shenzhou 10 - will have a crew of two male astronauts and one female, as did its predecessor this year, Shenzhou 9.

The crew aboard the Shenzhou 10 plans to reach the Tiangong 1 space laboratory module, Niu said in a statement to the 18th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, being held this week in Beijing to designate the nation's leaders for the next 10 years.

This mission will be the fourth manned by Chinese astronauts and the second with a woman on board.

After the space flights of 2003 and 2005 and a space walk in 2008, in June of this year the astronauts Liu Yang, Jing Haipeng and Liu Wang, all pilots of the Chinese air force, successfully completed the 10-day Shenzhou 9 space mission.

During that mission, Liu and his fellow astronauts carried out a series of scientific experiments and technical trials on the Tiangong 1 (Palace in Paradise 1) module.

The goal of the Chinese space program is to convert that module into a space station by the year 2020.

According to official data, by the end of 2011 China had sent 20 rockets and 25 satellites into space, placing it second in the number of launches after Russia. EFE