China launched a third telecommunication technology test satellite early Tuesday morning, marking the country's 37th space rocket launch of 2018.
China in 2018 leads the world with 37 orbital launches as of Tuesday, followed by the U.S. with 34 and Russia with 18, information on aerospace information website Rocket Launch shows.
As the U.S. and China have one scheduled rocket launch this week, aerospace analysts say 2018 will mark the first year that China surpasses the U.S. for space rockets in a year, a landmark for China's space exploration efforts.
Tuesday's satellite was launched just after midnight by a Long March-3C carrier rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Southwest China's Sichuan Province, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
Compared with an experimental satellite, the satellite launched on Tuesday is expected to test advanced technologies including quantum communication, Huang Jun, a professor at the School of Aeronautic Science and Engineering at Beihang University, told the Global Times on Tuesday.
The test satellite is also likely to be used for military purposes, Huang said.
Although China started later than the U.S., the country has made remarkable progress in the space race through strong national policy support and investment in talent, Huang said.
The launch was the 296th mission of the Long March carrier rocket series.
Since the first successful launch in 2008, the Long March 3C rocket has carried a BeiDou navigation satellite and also Chang'e-2, China's second lunar probe.
The year 2018 marks out China as a leader, not a follower, in international space exploration, said Wang Chi, director of the National Space Science Center under the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
As world powers compete for a bigger say in space, China needs more investment in outer space science and applied research such as Earth observation, he said.