Saturday, September 8, 2018

China Conducts Surprise Launch of Long March 2C with Haiyang-1C Marine Satellite

Long March 2C with Haiyang-1C lifts off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on September 7, 2018. Photo Credit: Xinhua/Zheng Taotao.

Without any prior notice, China launched on Friday, September 7, a Long March 2C booster on a mission to deliver the Haiyang-1C marine satellite into space. The rocket lifted off at 11:15 a.m. local time (11:15 p.m. EDT on September 6) from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center (TSLC) in China’s Shanxi Province.

The launch was conducted unannounced and only a notice to airmen (NOTAM) published September 6 indicated an imminent orbital mission.

The confirmation of the launch success came from the state-run Xinhua press agency some three hours after liftoff.

“China sent a new marine satellite into orbit Friday to help improve understanding of maritime waters and climate change,” Xinhua reports.

China has not disclosed any details about Friday’s orbital flight. However, given that the satellite was delivered into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO), at an altitude of about 485 miles (780 kilometers), the mission most likely lasted around 20-30 minutes, counting from liftoff to the payload deployment.

Haiyang-1C (or HY-1C for short) was developed by China Spacesat Co., Ltd, a subsidiary of China Academy of Space Technology (CAST). The satellite weighs some 974 lbs. (442 kilograms) and is based on the CAST968 platform, which features two deployable solar arrays and batteries generating up to 510 W of power. Its dimensions are: 4.6 x 3.6 x 3.13 feet (1.4 x 1.1 x 0.953 meters).

According to the State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense (SASTIND), Haiyang-1C is planned be operated by CAST for five years to help monitor ocean color and water temperatures, providing basic data for research on the global oceanic environment. It will also be used in the survey of the resources and environment of China's offshore waters, islands and coastal zones, marine disaster relief and the sustainable utilization of ocean resources.

In order to complete its planned tasks, Haiyang-1C is equipped in a medium-resolution optical imager named China Ocean Color and Temperature Scanner (COCTS), and in a multispectral push broom CCD instrument known as the Coastal Zone Imager (CZI).

Wang Lili, chief designer of Haiyang-1C, revealed that the spacecraft fitted with these two instruments will be able to detect chlorophyll and suspended sediment concentrations and dissolved organic matter, which can affect ocean color, as well as temperatures on the sea surface. Such data could help survey fishery and aquaculture resources and environments.

Haiyang-1C is the third satellite in the series. Haiyang-1A was launched in May 2002, while Haiyang-1B in April 2007. Xinhua noted that Haiyang-1C, along with Haiyang-1D, scheduled for launch in 2019, are expected to improve China's ocean remote sensing capability.

The Long March 2C booster employed for Friday’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) and SSO. The 138-foot (42-meter) tall launch vehicle is capable of lifting 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.

On September 9, 1982, the Long March 2C carried out its first flight. Liftoff took place from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center to orbit the Fanhui Shei Weixing recoverable satellite.

Friday’s mission marked the 284th launch of the Long March rocket series and the 24th orbital flight conducted by China in 2018. The country’s next flight is currently targeted for September 20, when a Kuaizhou 1A rocket is expected to deliver the Centispace-1 1S into an SSO.

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