BEIJING (AFP) - China may send its first woman into space next year as part of a programme to build a space station by 2020, the official Xinhua news agency said Monday. The announcement came as China said it would launch an unmanned space craft, the Shenzhou VIII, early Tuesday to carry out the countrys first ever space docking with a module that is already orbiting the earth. The experimental docking is part of Chinas preparation for building its first space station by 2020, where astronauts can live for several months, as they do on NASAs International Space Station or the former Russian Mir. If it is a success, China will launch another two space craft next year to conduct more docking experiments. At least one will be manned, and two female astronauts are among those being trained for the mission, Xinhua said. If they are chosen, they will be the first women China has sent into space. China began its manned spaceflight programme in 1990 after buying Russian technology and in 2003 became the third country to send humans into space, after the former Soviet Union and the United States. The Shenzhou VIII will blast off from the Gobi desert in Chinas northwest at 5:58am on Tuesday (2158 GMT Monday) before attempting to join with the Tiangong-1 or Heavenly Space module, possibly within days. A spokeswoman for Chinas manned space programme said data gathered would be crucial to the success of future missions.