Three astronauts blasted away from the Jiuquan base in Inner Mongolia on a Long March 2F rocket at 17:38 Beijing time (09:38 GMT).

The commander, Nie Haisheng, and his crew, Zhang Xiaoguang and Wang Yaping, plan to spend just under two weeks at the orbiting Tiangong space lab.

Wang is China's second female astronaut and she will beam the country's first lesson from space to students on Earth.

The crew's capsule was ejected from the upper-stage of the rocket about nine minutes after lift-off. Mission controllers clapped enthusiastically once the ship's solar panels had been deployed.