China's latest manned spacecraft blasted off with three "taikonauts" onboard on a 15-day mission to an experimental space lab.

The Shenzhou 10 spacecraft, atop a Long March 2 rocket, was launched on Tuesday from a remote site in the Gobi desert. The event that was carried live on state television.

Once in orbit, the craft will dock with the trial laboratory Tiangong [Heavenly Palace] 1. The crew - two men and one woman - will then carry out tests on the module's systems in the latest step towards the development of a space station.

They are also set to give a lecture to students back on earth.

China successfully carried out its first manned docking exercise with Tiangong 1 last June, a milestone in an effort to acquire the technological and logistical skills to run a full space station that can house people for long periods.

'Glorious and sacred'

President Xi Jinping oversaw the latest launch. He addressed the crew before blast-off and hailed the mission as "glorious and sacred", according to state media.

This mission will be the longest time Chinese have spent in space, and marks the second mission for lead crewmember Nie Haisheng. 

It is China's fifth manned space mission since 2003. China also plans an unmanned moon landing and the deployment of a rover, as a pretext to sending a man to the moon after 2020.




Source: Reuters