China successfully launched its third manned spacecraft on Thursday with three astronauts on the country's most challenging and 'sacred' mission involving first-ever space walk.
The Shenzhou 7 spacecraft, China's third manned mission, blasted off atop a 'Long March 2F' rocket at 1840 IST under clear night skies from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in Gansu Province in northwestern China.
The spacewalk by one of the astronauts is expected to take place either on Friday or Saturday.
Highlighting importance of the mission's success on China's ruling Communist Party, Chinese President and Communist Party chief Hu Jintao was shown live on state television hailing the astronauts at the launch site.
"You will definitely accomplish this glorious and sacred mission. The motherland and the people are looking forward to your triumphant return," Hu told the three astronauts -- Zhai Zhigang, Liu Boming and Jing Haipeng.
During the mission, the astronauts are expected to carry out China's first spacewalk or extravehicular activity (EVA) with homemade EVA space suit, which is a great leap for China's space technology, Hu said.
Zhai, Liu and Jing, all fighter pilots and 42 years old, are expected to orbit the earth for three days, when one of them will float out of the cabin about 343 kilometres above the earth.