Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said the rocket was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in western China, and China said the rocket carried a science payload which studied the earth's magnetosphere.
He said the rocket could possibly be used in the future to carry an anti-satellite payload on a similar trajectory, but there was no evidence to indicate the launch was intended to test such a capability.
The United States remains concerned about China's development of anti-satellite capabilities after it shot a missile at one of its own defunct satellites in orbit in 2007, creating an enormous amount of debris in space.
Monday's rocket launch was similar to launches using the Blue Scout Junior rocket that were conducted by the U.S. Air Force in the 1960s for research on the Earth's magnetosphere, McDowell said in an emailed response to questions.
The launch came less than a week after U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter unveiled what he called a "long overdue" effort to safeguard U.S. national security satellites and develop ways to counter the space capabilities of potential adversaries.
The Pentagon also released an 83-page report on Chinese military developments that highlighted China's increasing space capabilities and said Beijing was pursuing a variety of activities aimed at preventing its adversaries from using space-based assets during a crisis.
A Pentagon spokesman declined to comment on the Chinese rocket launch.