A science and technology-oriented cable television channel that will focus on topics such as animal breeding, the ice age and microsurgery was launched here Monday by a Landover company.

Programs offered by the new Discovery Channel are aimed at "lifelong learners" who are interested in nature, history, travel, human adventure and the sciences, network chairman John S. Hendricks said.

Tribune-United Cable of Montgomery County and Prime Cable in Prince George's County, available to a combined audience of about 60,000 viewers, will carry the channel, representatives said.

Hendricks said that he and the company's president, Edward M. Peabody, became interested in setting up a new channel after talking with nonfiction film producers who couldn't find cable outlets. Both men were formerly with the administration of the University of Maryland.

Hendricks said he was convinced that a market for science programs exists because of the high ratings of similar shows on public television.

He said the channel has enough advertisers that it does not have to charge cable operators who wish to carry it.

Nationwide, 120 operators with 4 million viewers have signed up, he said, while another 384 operators also have indicated they will sign up.

In the Washington area, four of the six cable franchises are expected to carry the channel, he said.

Tribune-United will start carrying the Discovery chanel for its customers in Rockville, Takoma Park, Silver Spring and Wheaton in four to six weeks, after it acquires equipment to pick up the signals of the channel, which will be broadcast from Stamford, Conn.

A representative of Prime Cable in Lanham said its company expects to carry the channel within 60 days.

The Discovery Channel will air from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. Among the programs planned are a discussion of the theory of relativity and another on efforts to protect breeds of livestock threatened by extinction. Hendricks said those interested in watching may range from "bright teen-agers who want to know more about science to retired people who are tired of what is being offered on television now."