Saturday, November 25, 2017

Long March 2C Sends Yaogan-30 Trio into Orbit

Long March 2C sends Yaogan-30 trio into orbit. Credit: Xinhua/Yang Zhongzhou

China has successfully conducted its fourth orbital launch this month, sending three Yaogan-30 02 reconnaissance satellites into space. The trio blasted off atop a Long March 2C booster at 2:10 a.m. local time on Saturday, November 25 (18:10 GMT on Friday, November 24), from LC3 Launch Complex at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China's Sichuan Province.

Saturday’s launch was another secretive one performed by Beijing as the details about the mission, its exact date and identity of the payload were kept under tight wraps. Although Chinese state-run press agency Xinhua confirmed the the success of the mission within an hour after liftoff, noting that the satellites will “conduct electromagnetic probes and other experiments”, Western analysts believe that they will be employed for military purposes.

Completing a short vertical ascent after liftoff, the Long March 2C rocket started heading southeast, over mainland China and Taiwan, towards Philippine Sea. The flight ended with insertion of the three satellites into a low-Earth orbit (LEO) at an altitude of 367 by 375 miles (590 by 604 kilometers), inclined 35 degrees.

“The satellites has entered the preset orbit and Saturday's launching mission was proclaimed a success,” Xinhua reported.

Developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the Yaogan-30 02 trio consists of three identical satellites equipped in two deployable solar arrays. Detailed technical parameters of this group were not disclosed by China.

Yaogan is a series of Earth-observing satellites launched by China since 2006. Although Chinese officials insist that these spacecraft are used for civilian purposes, experts suppose that Yaogan is a network of spy satellites.

The previous Yaogan trio of satellites, Yaogan-30 01, was launched into space by a Long March 2C rocket on September 29, 2017.

The Long March 2C booster used for Saturday’s launch is a two-stage rocket developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT). It is mainly used to launch satellites into LEO and SSO. The 138 feet (42 meters) tall booster can launch payloads of up to 3.85 metric tons to LEO and has an SSO capability of up to 1.4 metric tons. For some launches, the rocket could fly with an optional third stage.

Long March 2C was launched for the first time on September 9, 1982, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, orbiting the Fanhui Shei Weixing recoverable satellite.

Saturday’s launch was the 256th flight of the Long March rocket series. It was also the sixth orbital launch from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in 2017 and the 14th mission conducted by China this year.

The next Chinese launch is currently scheduled for November 25 when a Long March 3B rocket will blast off also from Xichang, carrying two BeiDou-3 navigation satellites.

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