Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Long March 2C Sends a Triplet of Yaogan-30 Satellites into Orbit

Long March 2C sends a triplet of Yaogan-30 satellites into orbit. Photo Credit: Xinhua/Liang Keyan

China launched its Long March 2C rocket on Monday, December 25 with a trio of Yaogan-30 satellites into space. Liftoff was conducted at 19:44 GMT (2:44 p.m. EST) from the Launch Complex 3 at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center (XSLC) in China’s Sichuan Province.

The mission was initially scheduled for December 27 but was moved two days earlier, however the exact cause of the reschedule was not revealed by Chinese media.

As was the case with previous launches performed by Beijing, the details about Monday’s mission were also kept under wraps. China has not disclosed any information about the pre-launch preparations either and insists that the trio of the newly launched satellites will be used for civilian purposes.

“As the third batch of the Yaogan-30 project, the satellites will conduct electromagnetic environmental probes and other experiments,” the Xinhua state-run press agency informed.

However, Western analysts suppose that Yaogan-30 is a strictly military project.

Firing a cluster of its four YF-20C engines, the Long March 2C rocket completed a short vertical ascent and started heading southeast, over mainland China and Taiwan, towards the Philippine Sea. The flight ended with the insertion of the three satellites into low-Earth orbit (LEO).

“The satellites have entered its preset orbit and the launch was proclaimed a success,” Xinhua confirmed.

Developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the Yaogan-30 03 trio consists of three identical satellites equipped with 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 believe that Yaogan is a network of spy satellites.

The previous Yaogan trio of satellites, Yaogan-30 02, was launched into space by a Long March 2C rocket on November 25, 2017. After Monday’s launch, the fleet of Yaogan-30 spacecraft in orbit was expanded to nine.

The Long March 2C booster used for Monday’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 Sun-synchronous orbits (SSO). The 138 feet (42 meters) tall launch vehicle is capable of lofting 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 carried out its first flight on September 9, 1982, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, orbiting the Fanhui Shei Weixing recoverable satellite.

Saturday’s launch was the 260th flight of the Long March rocket series. It was also the eight orbital launch from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in 2017 and the 18th mission conducted by China this year.

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