Monday, December 25, 2017

Long March 2D Sends China’s Second Land Surveying Satellite to Orbit

A Long March 2D launches at 04:14 UTC on Dec. 23, 2017, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi desert, northwest China’s Gansu Province. Photo Credit: Zhen Zhe / Xinhua

China launched into space its second Land Surveying Satellite (LKW-2) on Saturday, December 23, 2017, atop a Long March 2D booster. The rocket lifted off from Launch Area 4 at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center (JSLC) in China’s Gansu Province at exactly 04:14 UTC on December 23 (11:14 p.m. EST, Dec. 22). Launch success was confirmed by the state-run Xinhua press agency within an hour later.

The mission is shrouded in secrecy as Chinese media has kept the details about the pre-launch preparations and the launch itself under tight wraps. Therefore, the exact timeline of the flight is unknown.

The mission most likely lasted about 10 minutes counting from liftoff to deployment of the satellite. The Long March 2D booster burned its first stage for some three minutes after launch. Afterward, the rocket’s second stage controlled the mission for the remaining seven minutes, which ended with the insertion of the payload into a low-Earth orbit (LEO) at an altitude of approximately 310 miles (500 kilometers).

According to Chinese officials, LKW-2 (also known as Yaogan Weixing-32) is a land-exploration satellite that will be mainly used for remote sensing exploration of land resources. However, as was the case with most of the payloads launched by Beijing, Western experts believe that this satellite will be utilized for military purposes.

Developed by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), LKW-2 is probably an electro-optical observation satellite based on the military Jianbing-6 series. The spacecraft most likely utilizes uses the CAST-2000 bus, which has a dry mass of about one metric ton.

The first Yaogan satellite was launched in 2006, whereas the second generation of the series was inaugurated in 2008. The previous Yaogan spacecraft (Yaogan Weixing-31, or LKW-1) was orbited by China just three weeks ago, on December 3.

The Long March 2D, used for Saturday’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 into LEO. The 135-foot (41.15-meter) tall booster can launch payloads of up to 3.9 tons (3.5 metric tons) to LEO and has a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) capability of up to 1.4 tons (1.3 metric tons).

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

Saturday’s flight was the 259th flight of the Long March rocket series. It was also the sixth orbital launch from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center and the 17th orbital mission for China in 2017.

China’s next flight is currently planned for December 25 when, again, a Long March 2D will be used for orbital delivery. This time, the booster will lift off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center (TSLC) and will carry two SuperView (also known as Gaojing-1) Earth-observing satellites.


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