Sunday, May 15, 2016

Long March 2D Successfully Launches Yaogan-30 Remote Sensing Satellite

A Long March 2D rocket carrying the Yaogan-30 remote sensing satellite blasts off at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Jiuquan, northwest China's Gansu Province, May 15, 2016. Photo Credit: Xinhua/Wang Jiangbo

China successfully conducted on Sunday, May 15 its fifth orbital launch this year by sending the Yaogan-30 remote sensing satellite into space. The spacecraft lifted off at 10:43 a.m. local time (10:43 p.m. EDT on Saturday, May 14) atop a Long March 2D from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, located in Jiuquan, northwest China's Gansu Province.

The launch was unannounced and the state-run media confirmed the success of the mission about one hour after liftoff, when the satellite was already in orbit. Launch was also confirmed by USSTRATCOM which gave the spacecraft following designation number: 2016-029A/41473.

China’s Xinhua news agency claims that Yaogan-30 will be used for experiments, land surveys, crop yield estimates and disaster relief purposes. However, as was the case in previous Yaogan launches, Western analysts believe that the newly-launched spacecraft is fitted with electronic intelligence (ELINT), electro-optical and synthetic aperture radar-sensing equipment to conduct military reconnaissance on a global scale. 

According to USSTRATCOM, Yaogan-30 was launched into a sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) of 429 by 437 miles (690 by 704 km) with inclination at 98.23 degrees. It now remains in an orbit of 389 by 407 miles (626 by 655 km), inclined 98.07 degrees.

There are only few technical details available about the satellite. It is probably an electro-optical observation spacecraft based on the military Jianbing-6 series. Yaogan-30 was built by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) and features two deployable solar arrays along with batteries. The spacecraft uses the CAST-2000 platform. This bus has a dry mass of about one metric ton.

First Yaogan satellite was launched in 2006, while the second generation of the series was inaugurated in 2008. All Yaogan satellites were launched by Long March 2D rockets from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

The Long March 2D, used for Sunday’s mission, is a two-stage rocket developed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology. It is mainly used to launch a variety of satellites to LEO. The 135 ft. (41.15 m) tall booster can launch payloads of up to 3.5 metric tons to LEO and has a SSO capability of up to 1.3 metric tons.

The rocket was launched for the first time on Aug. 9, 1992, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center orbiting the Fanhui Shei Weixing FSW-2-1 recoverable satellite.

Sunday’s flight was the 227th flight of the Long March rocket series. It was also the second orbital launch from the Jiuquan Satellite launch Center in 2016.

China’s next flight is currently planned for late June when a new version of the Long March booster (Long March 7) will conduct its maiden flight. It will also be the first launch conducted from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, located on the Hainan Island, in southern China. The country plans more than 20 space missions this year.

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