Tuesday, October 29, 2013

China Launches Remote-Sensing Satellite

The Yaogan XVIII remote-sensing satellite is launched on the back of a Long March 2C carrier rocket from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Taiyuan, capital of north China's Shanxi Province, Oct. 29, 2013. Successfully launched on Tuesday, the satellite will be used to conduct scientific experiments, carry out land surveys, monitor crop yields and aid in preventing and reducing natural disasters. The launch marked the 183rd mission for the Long March rocket family. (Xinhua/Yan Yan)

The Yaogan 18 remote-sensing satellite was successfully launched on Tuesday from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in north China's Shanxi Province, according to a press release from the center. The satellite was launched at 10:50 a.m. on the back of a Long March 2C carrier rocket, according to the center. The satellite will be used to conduct scientific experiments, carry out land surveys, monitor crop yields and aid in preventing and reducing natural disasters.

But Western analysts believe the Yaogan name is a cover for China's intelligence-gathering satellites. The circumstances of Yaogan 18's launch, including its orbit and launch vehicle, match two previous Yaogan satellites launched in April 2009 and November 2011.

Independent observers of China's space program believe Yaogan 18, like the satellites launched in 2009 and 2011, hosts a synthetic aperture radar payload optimized to resolve targets on the ground through clouds and during nighttime.

The two-stage liquid-fueled launcher placed the Yaogan 18 satellite into an orbit more than 300 miles above Earth with an inclination of approximately 97 degrees, according to U.S. military tracking data.

China did not announce the launch in advance, keeping with the country's usual policy of not disclosing the launch schedule for military satellites.

The launch marked the 183th mission for the Long March rocket family.

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