By Katie Hunt and Zhang Dayu, CNN
Chinese spaceship blasted off Tuesday from a launch center in the Gobi Desert, carrying three astronauts on what is expected to be the Asian giant's longest crewed mission yet.
Propelled by a Long March-2F rocket, the Shenzhou 10 craft is scheduled to dock with the Tiangong-1 space module where the crew will transfer supplies to the space lab, which has been in orbit since September 2011.
China has stepped up the pace of its space program since first sending astronaut Yang Liwei into orbit in 2003. In 2012, it conducted 18 space launches, according to the Pentagon.
Tuesday's launch from the the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center marks the start of China's fifth crewed space mission.
By Nic Robertson, CNN
The first thing I noticed were the bicycles. Those who weren't riding them were walking.
I was beginning to wonder if we'd taken a wrong turn. We were looking for China's super-secret space center.
Our four-hour drive from Jiuquan in China's west had taken us past picture postcard fields and fish ponds framed by looming snow-capped peaks, through an oasis of green and finally across the arid Gobi desert.