Tuesday, October 9, 2018

China Launches Yaogan-32 Duo atop Long March 2C

Long March 2C rocket carrying two Yaogan-32 satellites lifts off on October 9, 2018. Photo Credit: Xinhua/Wang Jiangbo

A Long March 2C rocket took to the skies on Tuesday, October 9, on a mission to deliver a duo of Yaogan-32 remote sensing satellites into space. The booster lifted off at 10:43 a.m. local time (10:43 p.m. EDT on October 8) from the Launch Area 4 of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center (JSLC) in China’s Gansu Province.

China remains tight-lipped on pre-launch preparations and orbital flight. The state-run Xinhua press agency only confirmed launch success some two and a half hours after liftoff, noting that the satellites have entered their planned orbits.

Given that Yaogan satellites should reside in a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO), Tuesday’s ride to orbit most likely lasted around 10 to 20 minutes.

The newly orbited spacecraft received designation Yaogan-32 A and Yaogan-32 B. Xinhua insists that the duo is planned to be used for electromagnetic environment surveys and other related technology tests. However, independent observers assume that Yaogan satellites are of military nature and employ either optical or synthetic aperture radar (SAR) sensors.

A report released in May 2016 by the National Institute of Advanced Studies located in Bangalore, India, suggests that the Yaogan satellites are part of an anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM) system that Beijing is developing. The document states that “the Chinese have in place a robust space-based system that performs the location and tracking functions for the ASBM system.”

The first Yaogan spacecraft was launched in April of 2006. Previous Yaogan launch was conducted on April 10, 2018, when a Long March 4C rocket orbited three Yaogan-31 satellites.

The Long March 2C booster employed for Tuesday’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 Tuesday’s mission, the optional Yuanzheng-1S (YZ-1S) upper stage was included for the first time. It is a simplified version of the Yuanzheng-1 (YZ-1) and is designed for short flights. According to Xinhua, YZ-1S improves Long March 2C’s SSO payload capacity from 1.2 to 2.0 metric tons.

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.

Tuesday’s flight was the 286th flight of the Long March rocket series and the 27th mission conducted by China in 2018. Beijing’s next orbital mission is currently slated to take place on October 14, when a Long March 3B booster is planned to orbit two BeiDou-3 navigation satellites.

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