Chinese Long March 2F Rocket Is Now On The Launchpad

China is gearing up to send its next crewed mission to its orbiting space station. On October 7, Chinese space officials rolled the Long March 2F rocket vertically to its launchpad. The launch will happen at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Atop the 203-foot tall rocket was the astronaut carrying Shenzhou 13 spacecraft.

A trio of Chinese astronauts will be pushed into orbit inside that spacecraft. While Chinese mission planners expect the launch to go off without a hitch, the spacecraft is fitted with an escape launch system to carry the capsule and crew away from the rocket in the event of an emergency.

The names of the crew members haven't been announced at this time, but rumors suggest the three astronauts will be the backup crew for the Shenzhou 12 mission. If that rumor is true, the crew will include Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping, and Ye Guangfu. The astronauts will venture to the Chinese Tianhe space station module that China put into orbit in April.

Since the space station went into orbit, a single 90-day mission with astronauts aboard has been conducted. Wang will be the first female astronaut to visit China's space station, assuming the crew rumors are true. Chinese authorities haven't said exactly when the rocket would launch.

It's expected the first hint a launch is imminent would come in the form of closed airspace around the launch site. The astronauts will remain aboard Tianhe for up to six months. China previously sent a cargo spacecraft to dock with the space station. The docking happened on September 20 and delivered 13,230 pounds of supplies, including food and experiments specifically for the Shenzhou 13 mission. The mission will use China's 13th Long March 2Frocket, making it the first to be prepared for emergency rescue and la