A Chinese spacecraft carrying three astronauts successfully completed a manual docking, or link-up between two separate spacecraft on Sunday, the first-ever for the country.

The Shenzhou 9 capsule completed the maneuver with the Tiangong 1 module shortly before 1 pm local time, and was broadcast live on national television. State television also broadcast images of Jing Haipeng, Liu Wang and China's first female astronaut, Liu Yang, smiling after completing the exercise, reported the BBC.

The manual docking follows a remote-controlled docking carried out last week from a ground base in China.

Manual docking is carried out in the event of failure of the automated system.

The crew's mission, which is also China's fourth manned mission, is expected to last at least 10 days.

Shenzhou 9 was launched on June 16 from the Jiuquan center in Gobi desert in northern China.

The first-ever docking of two spacecraft was achieved on March 16, 1966, when Gemini 8, under the command of Neil Armstrong, rendezvoused and docked with an unmanned Agena Target Vehicle. The feat was acclaimed as a milestone in space exploration as well as one of the major accomplishments of the US space program.

The Soviet Union also carried out manual docking in the 1960s.

China is one of the three nations to have launched manned spacecraft independently sharing the honor with US and Russia.