China will launch its third manned space flight and attempt its first spacewalk this month, shortly before marking the 59th anniversary of its founding on October 1, in a display of confidence to the world. State media said the Shenzhou VII would head into space from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the northwestern province of Gansu between September 25 and 30, just days before the October 1 National Day, when the government heralds its achievements. The two previous manned missions, one in 2003 and another in 2005, both took place in October. The latest launch comes as the nation celebrates its successful hosting of the Olympics, though the year has been overshadowed by the Sichuan earthquake and protests by Tibetans. Three astronauts would take part, with one making the eagerly anticipated spacewalk, which would be broadcast live on television, Xinhua said. Earlier media reports had said the launch had been moved up from the originally planned October to shortly after the Paralympics, which end on September 17. The government is keeping the identity of the three astronauts and their three-member backup team secret, but a spokesman for the centre was quoted as saying they were skilled and in good physical and mental health. Yesterday state television showed workers in orange uniforms helping three unidentified astronauts into the spacecraft in a drill, though it was not known if the footage was current. The nation's first man in space, Yang Liwei, became a national hero after his mission and there has been speculation he might make another voyage. Two more astronauts joined the space elite in 2005 with the launch of Shenzhou VI on a five-day mission. Workers were preparing the spacecraft yesterday, which will then be joined to a Long March II-F rocket for the launch. 'All the major systems involved in the launch are now under final preparation,' the spokesman said. 'The main tests for the spacecraft, the Long March II-F rocket, suits for the spacewalk and a satellite accompanying the flight have also been finished.' Earlier versions of the Long March rocket used for launching satellites exploded shortly after takeoff in 1995 and 1996, but the rocket family appears to have been trouble-free since. Two specialised craft, the Yuanwang-5 and its recently launched sister ship, will be used to help track the spacecraft. Planners have not specified the landing site, though state media said it was 'fully prepared'. The rocket would also carry a satellite into orbit, Xinhua said, but gave no details. Preparations were in the final stages for ground control, the launch site and the control system. The nation's space programme has allowed it to realise a long-held dream of becoming a space power alongside the United States and Russia. Lunar flights are planned for the future, officials have said. The opening ceremony of the Olympics on August 8 also celebrated the nation's achievements and ambitions in space. The government has made developing science and technology a key policy. Besides its space programme, the nation is also trying to develop its own technology for civil aircraft and high-speed trains to reduce reliance on other countries.