Development of new Chinese Earth-observation satellites is in the planning stage, national space contractor CASC says, announcing the launch of the latest such spacecraft. A Long March 4B rocket lofted the new satellite, Ziyuan 3, to a 500 km Sun-synchronous orbit inclined at 97.5 deg. at 03:17 GMT on Jan. 9. The Xian launch control center reported separation of the payload and injection into orbit 12 min. after launch. The 2.65-metric-ton Ziyuan 3 is China's first civil satellite built for precision, three-dimensional mapping, says CASC, whose spacecraft-manufacturing subsidiary CAST built it. The satellite will provide multi-spectral as well as 3-D imaging, with a design life of five years. The launch was late; it was originally scheduled for 2011. The Yaogan series of remote-sensing satellites already has units with synthetic aperture radar for military use. Use of Ziyuan 3 is officially assigned to the National Administration of Surveying, Mapping and Geo-information, with such functions as soil monitoring and disaster mitigation.