The launch marks another step forward in Beijing's ambitions for a bigger presence in space that include the construction of a space station by 2020.
The crew could include one female and two male astronauts, who are scheduled to enter the Tiangong 1 space lab module, according to Niu Hongguang, deputy commander-in-chief of China's manned space programme.
Niu made the remarks on the sidelines of the Communist Party congress which is meeting to choose a new leadership.
The new plan follows the successful flight of the Shenzhou 9 spacecraft, which returned to Earth in late June, that put China's first woman in space and completed a manned docking test critical to Beijing's space station plan.
China is far from catching up with the established space superpowers, the United States and Russia, but the Shenzhou 9 marked China's fourth manned space mission since 2003, and comes as budget restraints and shifting priorities have held back U.S. manned space launches.
The United States will not test a new rocket to take people into space until 2017, and Russia has said manned missions are no longer a priority.
China plans an unmanned moon landing and deployment of a moon rover and its scientists have raised the possibility of sending a man to the moon, but not before 2020.