Thursday, June 28, 2018

China Launches Technology Demonstration Satellites Atop Long March 2C – Spent Stage Falls on Town

Long March 2C launches from Xichang Satellite Launch Center on June 27, 2018. Photo Credit: Xinhua

China launched a Long March 2C rocket carrying two technology demonstration satellites designated XJSW A and XJSW B on Wednesday, June 27. The mission took to the skies at 3:30 GMT (11:30 p.m. EDT on June 26) from the Launch Complex 3 at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center (XSLC) in China’s Sichuan Province.

Mission success was confirmed by the state-run Xinhua press agency some two hours after liftoff had taken place.

“China successfully launched new-tech experiment twin satellites on the Long March-2C rocket from southwest China’s Xichang Satellite Launch Center Wednesday morning. The twin satellites were launched at 11:30 a.m., [local time] and entered their intended orbit,” Xinhua informed.

However, Chinese media have not revealed the parameters of the satellites. Xinhua only disclosed that the twin spacecraft are designed to “link the inter-satellite network and conduct new technology tests on satellites Earth-observation.”

The details about pre-launch preparations and the flight itself were kept under wraps. The exact orbit from which the twin satellites are expected to conduct tests – is also unknown.

Earlier reports only noted that China plans to launch a trio of Yaogan 30 satellites atop a Long March 2C booster on June 27 from Xichang, however officials apparently decided to send a different payload into space. A new launch date for the Yaogan 30 triplet has yet to be announced.

It was reported that the rocket’s first stage, after falling away from the booster’s second stage fell on a town located in Niuchang town, part of Fuquan city in the Guizhou Province by Andrew Jones with the GB TImes. A video of the stage’s explosion as it struck the ground can be seen on the Chinese social media site Sina Weibo. 

The Long March 2C’s fuel consists of unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine fuel as well as dinitrogen tetroxide oxidiser. Both of these are toxic. 

This is not the first time that one of China’s rockets has struck near towns or villages. It has been reported that two of these incidents have taken place in 2018 alone. Only one of China’s four launch sites, Wenchang, is located near the ocean. The remaining three Jiuquan, Taiyuan and Xichang – are all located inland. 

The Long March 2C booster employed for Wednesday’s flight is a two-stage rocket developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT). It is mainly used to launch satellites into low-Earth orbit (LEO) or to Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO). The 138-foot (42-meter) 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 missions, an optional third stage can be included.

Gunter’s Space Page noted that for Wednesday’s mission, the Long March 2C launch vehicle was fitted with an modified fairing, as XJSW A and B did not fit the standard fairing.

The maiden flight of the Long March 2C booster was conducted on September 9, 1982, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center (JSLC). That mission delivered the Fanhui Shei Weixing recoverable satellite into space.

Wednesday’s launch marked the 278th flight of the Long March rocket series and the 18th orbital mission for China so far this year (2018).

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