China will start building a test satellite later this month (April) to detect electromagnetic anomalies in the atmosphere, as part of the country's proposed earthquake monitoring network, and hopes to launch it in 2014.
The China Seismo-Electromagnetic Satellite (CSES) has been in development since 2003 and is the first spaced-based component of the network. Its data will be correlated with data from ground-based monitoring systems.
The network is eventually intended to provide advance warning of earthquakes, such as the one off the coast of Japan last month (11 March).
Strong seismic activity often causes electromagnetic anomalies in the Earth's atmosphere and magnetic field, aiding the monitoring and prediction of earthquakes, studies suggest.
Shen Xuhui, a senior researcher at the Institute of Earthquake Science, China Earthquake Administration (CEA), and leader of the CSES working group, said the satellite will eventually be connected to a larger observation system. China hopes to launch another two satellites by 2017 and begin predicting earthquakes from 2020.