China will launch a manned spacecraft this month, state news agency Xinhua said on Saturday, in the latest step in a programme aimed at giving the country a permanent space station by 2020.

The Shenzhou-9 spacecraft and its carrier rocket have already been moved to the launch platform at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northwest China, Xinhua said, quoting an official with the country's manned space programme.

The launch — China's first manned space mission since September 2008 — would occur “sometime in mid June”, it said.

State media earlier reported that the mission would involve three astronauts manually docking with the Tiangong-1 module currently orbiting the Earth.