China will launch a spaceship Thursday morning to carry three astronauts to a space station it is building, the China Manned Space Agency said Wednesday, according to state-run media.
It will be the first manned mission during the construction of the space station, with the three astronauts slated to remain in orbit for three months, according to the reports.
The Shenzhou-12 spaceship will carry Nie Haisheng, Liu Boming and Tang Hongbo to the core module, where they will live while working on the space station's construction.
In late April, China launched the core module for the space station -- the country's first -- with President Xi Jinping pledging to make the Asian country a space power.
China plans to continue sending modules to complete construction by the end of 2022 as it looks to develop new materials and promote the study of bioscience.
As the Communist-led government has been steadily moving ahead with space development projects in recent years, expectations are growing that competition between China and the United States will intensify in the field.
Late last year, an unmanned Chinese space probe returned to Earth with the first lunar soil samples in 44 years as China became the third nation to bring back material from the Moon after the United States and Russia.
Also last month, China started probing the surface of Mars, becoming the second country to undertake a mission on the red planet after the United States.