China’s fourth human spaceflight mission got underway this morning after a Long March 2F rocket blasted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 10:37 UTC. Perched atop the launch vehicle were taikonauts Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and Liu Yang in their Shenzhou-9 spacecraft. Liu Yang is the country’s first female taikonaut, reaching space on the forty-ninth anniversary of cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova’s historic Vostok 6 flight.
Shenzhou-9 reached its preliminary orbit approximately nine minutes, forty-five seconds into flight, as it separated from the Long March 2F's core stage. The spacecraft is expected to dock with Tiangong-1 on Monday, kicking off an expected ten-day aboard China’s first space station.