Tianwen-"1 was launched on a Long March-5 carrier rocket from Hainan Island, a resort province off the south coast of the mainland", state media said.
Livestreams showed a successful lift-off, with rockets blazing orange and the spacecraft heading upward across clear blue skies.
China’s secretive space program has developed rapidly in recent decades. Yang Liwei became the first Chinese astronaut in 2003, and last year, Chang’e-4 became the first spacecraft from any country to land on the far side of the moon.
While China is joining the US, Russia and Europe in creating a satellite-based global navigation system, experts say it isn’t trying to overtake the US lead in space exploration.
Instead, Cheng of the Heritage Foundation said China is in a “slow race” with Japan and India to establish itself as Asia’s space power.