China has successfully launched its fifth human spaceflight mission, Shenzhou 10, carrying a crew of three into low Earth orbit (LEO).

The 11 June launch of a Long March 2F from the Jiuquan launch site in north-central China appears to have gone off without a hitch, much like the previous four flights. China's budding human spaceflight programme has proceeded cautiously, launching roughly one per year.

The flight is scheduled to last 15 days, China's longest to date, and will include a rendezvous with the orbiting Tiangong 1 space station.

It was the 177th launch of the Long March rocket series, according to Flightglobal Ascend's database.

China's spaceflight programme to date, including the 11 June flight, are considered test runs for the nation's ambitious plans. China has declared intent to build a much larger orbital space station than the very basic Tiangong 1, in addition to missions to the moon and Mars.

The country's ambitions have sparked a space race amongst geopolitical competitors: North Korea, South Korea, Japan and India have all accelerated their respective spaceflight programmes in recent years.

Source: Flight International