China launched a Long March rocket Monday with a high-resolution civil mapping satellite to survey natural resources and a craft to relay marine tracking data for U.S.-based Orbcomm Inc.
The Long March 4B launcher lifted off at 0317 GMT Monday (10:17 p.m. EST Sunday) from the Taiyuan space center in Shanxi province, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.
It was 11:17 a.m. Beijing time.
The 15-story rocket and the Ziyuan 3 satellite achieved orbit about 12 minutes later. The rocket's upper stage injected the craft into an orbit more than 300 miles high with an inclination of 97.5 degrees. [12 Space Missions to Watch in 2012]
Developed and built by the China Academy of Space Technology, the 5,842-pound satellite carries an electro-optical imaging payload comprising three pointing forward, down and aft. The ground-facing camera has a resolution of 2.5 meters, or 8.2 feet.
Ziyuan 3 also features an infrared spectrometer.
The satellite is devoted to civil applications, according to Xinhua.
The news agency said Ziyuan 3 will aid in land resource surveys, natural disaster prevention, agriculture development, water management, and urban planning.
The rocket also orbited VesselSat 2, a 63-pound satellite designed to relay positions of ships around the world. Constructed by LuxSpace of Luxembourg, the spacecraft's services will supplement Orbcomm's next-generation communications satellites due to begin launching this year.
Monday's mission was the first space launch worldwide in 2012.
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Stephen Clark is the Editor of Spaceflight Now, a web-based publication dedicated to covering rocket launches, human spaceflight and exploration. He joined the Spaceflight Now team in 2009 and previously wrote as a senior reporter with the Daily Texan. You can follow Stephen's latest project at SpaceflightNow.com and on Twitter.