China plans to send as many as eight satellites into space before 2020 to provide ocean and land data and supervise the marine environment, a senior official has said.
"The planned satellite launches, including four satellites observing the colour of the sea, two observing ocean currents and two maritime radar satellites before 2020, have been approved by the National Development and Reform Commission," Jiang Xingwei, director of the National Satellite Ocean Application Service, told China Daily.
The new satellites will greatly improve China's ability to observe and supervise the marine environment, he said.
China already has three satellites that monitor its territorial waters and islands, including the Diaoyu Islands and Huangyan Island, but they cannot be used to focus on a fixed location, Jiang said.
The launch of the two maritime radar satellites will add that capability.
China has three maritime satellites in operation, according to the NSOAS.
Xia Dengwen, deputy director of the China Oceanic Information Network of the State Oceanic Administration, said current sea-monitoring is done by some satellites and aircraft.
If more satellites are launched, the system will operate better, said Xia, who is in charge of the system.
After three years of operation, the national sea-monitoring system has gradually expanded its coverage from offshore waters to distant areas, covering about 300,000 sq km of ocean, according to the State Oceanic Administration.
Xia said satellite images and data provide important information used by China Marine Surveillance in monitoring the legitimate and illegal use of the oceans, helping authorities adjust the annual national sea-use plan.
Pan Delu, of the State Oceanic Administration's Second Institute of Oceanography, said that it is urgent that China moves forward with the satellite project because the country is at least 10 years behind the satellite technology of developed economies such as the United States.
China is accelerating its pace of research and development of satellite technologies and broadening international cooperation.
Beijing is currently carrying out an ambitious space programme which includes missions to Moon, building of its space station as well as its own global positioning system to rival the United States.
Since last year, China has started a programme to launch 100 rockets and 100 satellites by 2015 and has been making 20 launch missions a year to accomplish it.