A heavy-lift rocket that the mainland has been holding in storage for nearly a decade will blast off in April. If successful, the launch vehicle will strengthen capabilities to send low-cost satellites into high orbit. The CZ-3C-model rocket will be launched at the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan before the end of next month, China News Services quoted Jiang Jie, a CPPCC delegate and key designer of the Long March series of rockets, as saying. The rocket had not previously been launched with a payload, Ms Jiang said. With three stages and two side-boosters, it can carry nearly four tonnes to 35,000km above the Earth. She did not reveal the type of satellite that would be aboard the rocket or its purpose. Bonding technology for two strapped-on boosters, which are likely to generate asymmetric turbulence, would be a challenge, Ms Jiang said. '[But] all relevant preparations have been completed. We are waiting to send it from Beijing to Xichang.' Designed specifically for lifting lightweight satellites into high-altitude orbit, the rocket had been kept in a warehouse since 1999, said Sun Jiwen, a rocket expert at the People's Liberation Army's Chinese Academy of Military Sciences. It was designed with a payload capability between that of the CZ-3A and the CZ-3B. A CZ-3C was made in 1997 to carry the Argentinian satellite Nahuel-1B, but the mission was cancelled after the failure of the CZ-3B, a heavier model with four strapped-on boosters, in February 1996. 'Since then there has been no demand for it,' Professor Sun said. But since 2006, China has increased the frequency of its satellite launches, creating new demand for powerful and economic launch vehicles. 'From the second half of 2006 to the first half of last year ... we sent up one satellite per month on average,' Ms Jiang said. 'From now on, we will launch six to 10 satellites every year. China has entered a high-frequency rocket-launching period, an indication that a new dawn in our space programme has arrived. [A new generation rocket] will blast off in 2012 or 2013.'