updated 10/23/2006 10:09:12 PM ET 2006-10-24T02:09:12

China launched two satellites into space on Tuesday aboard a Long March-4B carrier rocket, the official Xinhua news agency reported, marking the latest step in its ambitious space program.

Both satellites successfully entered their orbits after an early-morning liftoff from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in the northern province of Shanxi, Xinhua said.

The two Shijian 6 satellites are designed to explore the space environment and radiation, and to carry out related experiments.

China launched its first satellite in 1970 aboard a Long March rocket, which orbited the Earth while blaring the Cultural Revolution anthem, "The East is Red".

Since then, analysts estimate it has launched 50 satellites, which Sun Laiyan, the head of China's National Space Administration, has said help with weather forecasting and developing seeds that breed superior crops.

In 2003, China put a man in space, becoming only the third country to achieve the feat after the United States and the Soviet Union. It launched a second manned spaceflight last year, and plans a spacewalk by 2008.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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