China Launches New Earth-Watching Satellite
In this photo released by China's Xinhua News Agency, a Long March-4C carrier rocket carrying China's remote sensing satellite "Yaogan III" blasts off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Taiyuan, capital of north China's Shanxi Province, early Monday, Nov. 12, 2007. The 2,700-kilogram satellite will be used for scientific research, land resources surveying, crop yield estimate and disaster prevention and relief.
Credit: AP Photo/Xinhua, /Li Gang.

China's newest Earth-watching satellite successfully launched into space early Monday to survey the country's land resources and aid in disaster prevention, state media reported.

Just weeks after launching its first lunar orbiter Chang'e-1 toward the moon, China sent the Yaogan 3 remote-sensing satellite into orbit atop a Long March-4C rocket, according to the country's state-run Xinhua News Agency.

The rocket launched into space from the Taiyun Satellite Launch Center in the Shanxi Province at 6:48 a.m. local Beijing Time, Xinhua reported. The 5,952-pound (2,700-kilogram) satellite will be used to scan available land resources, estimate crop yields and assist in disaster management, the news agency added.

Monday's successful launch marked China's second space shot in less than three weeks following the Oct. 24 liftoff of its Chang'e lunar orbiter. The moon probe subsequently reached its final lunar orbit last week and is expected to spend about one year observing the lunar surface.

China is the third nation, after Russia and the U.S., to independently build and launch astronaut-carrying spacecraft into Earth orbit. Last month, Chinese space officials formally announced plans to develop the Long March 5 family of rockets, consisting of larger boosters capable of launching heavier payloads into orbit, to lift off from a new spaceport to be built on the country's Hainan Island.

According to state news reports, the first Long March 5 rocket will debut until 2013, though China is preparing for its third manned spaceflight. The three-astronaut mission is slated to launch in 2008 and may include China's first spacewalk.

China launched its first astronaut in 2003 aboard the Shenzhou 5 spacecraft. The nation's second manned flight, Shenzhou 6, carried two astronauts when it launched in 2005.