Watch China launch 3 astronauts to Tiangong space station today

China will launch its latest set of crewmembers to Tiangong space station today (April 25), and you can watch the action live.

The three-astronaut Shenzhou 18 mission is scheduled to lift off atop a Long March 2F rocket from China's Jiuquan spaceport at 8:59 a.m. EDT (1259 GMT; 8:59 p.m. Beijing time) on April 25.

Watch it live here at, courtesy of Chinese broadcaster CCTV. Coverage is expected to begin around 5:45 a.m. EDT (0945 GMT).

Related: China rolls out rocket for next astronaut mission to Tiangong space station (photos)

A Long March 2F rocket launches China's three-astronaut Shenzhou 17 mission toward the Tiangong space station on Oct. 25, 2023. (Image credit: CCTV)

China revealed the Shenzhou 18 astronaut roster just yesterday (April 24), as is customary; the nation generally does not identify crewmembers until a day before liftoff.

Shenzhou 18 will be the seventh crewed mission to Tiangong. It consists of 43-year-old commander Ye Guangfu, who previously flew on Shenzhou 13 for a mission that launched in 2021 and returned in 2022, as well as fighter pilots Li Cong, 34, and Li Guangsu, 36, both of whom are spaceflight rookies. 

If all goes according to plan, the trio will arrive at Tiangong about seven hours after liftoff today. The outpost is already occupied by the three astronauts of the Shenzhou 17 mission, who are wrapping up their six-month orbital stint.

The T-shaped Tiangong consists of three elements — the Tianhe core module, which launched in April 2021, and the Wentian and Mengtian laboratory modules, which followed suit in 2022.

Tiangong is about 20% as massive as the International Space Station, but that may not always be the case; Chinese officials have said they plan to launch more modules to the outpost in the not-too-distant future.

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.