Thursday, October 25, 2018

Long March 4B Lifts Off with Haiyang-2B Marine Satellite

Long March 4B rocket lifts off with Haiyang-2B satellite on October 25, 2018. Image Credit: Xinhua.

Continuing its record-breaking year of space launches, China conducted another orbital mission on Thursday, October 25, by sending the Haiyang-2B marine satellite atop a Long March 4B booster.

The rocket lifted off at 6:57 a.m. local time (22:57 GMT October 24 / 6:57 p.m. EDT October 24) from Launch Site 9 at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center (TSLC) in China’s Shanxi Province.

What is typical for Chinese mission, the details about pre-launch preparations and about the flight are kept under wraps. However, a notice to airmen (NOTAM), published October 23, suggested the upcoming launch.

The state-run Xinhua press agency confirmed the mission success within three hours after liftoff.

“China sent a new marine satellite into orbit Thursday morning,” Xinhua said in a brief press release.

The satellite was delivered into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) at an altitude of about 605 miles (973 kilometers), the mission most likely lasted around 25-30 minutes from liftoff to the separation of the payload.

Developed by China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), Haiyang-2B (HY-2B for short) has a mass of approximately 1.5 metric tons and is based on the CAST968 platform, which features two deployable solar arrays and batteries.

According to Xinhua, HY-2B is an ocean dynamic satellite, which will form a network with the subsequent HY-2C (to be launched in 2019) and HY-2D (launch date TBA) for maritime environmental monitoring. The newly launched spacecraft is planned to be operational for five years.

HY-2B is equipped in several instruments. The list of equipment includes a radar altimeter for ocean topography, a Doppler orbitography and Radiopositioning Integrated by Satellite (DORIS) for space geodesy and positioning, a laser reflector array, a microwave radiometer and a scatterometer.

Besides HY-2B, four Haiyang satellites have been orbited to date. HY-1A was launched in May 2002 with HY-1B flying about five years later in April 2007. Next was HY-2A, sent into space in August 2011, and most recently, in September 2018 – HY-1C was delivered into orbit.

The three-stage Long March 4B, employed for launching HY-2B. was designed to deliver satellites into low-Earth (LEO) and Sun-synchronous orbits. The 150 ft (46 meters) tall launch vehicle has been in service for more than 19 years and has conducted 31 missions – with only one of them ending unsuccessfully.

With a mass of 249 metric tons, the Long March 4B booster is capable of delivering up to 4.2 metric tons to LEO, 2.8 metric tons to SSO, and 1.5 metric tons to a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO). The rocket’s first stage is 91.5 ft (28 m) long and has 11 feet (3.35 m) in diameter. It is powered by four YF-20B engines. The second stage, 35 ft (11 m) long and 11 ft (3.35 m) in diameter, is equipped with one YF-22C main engine and four YF-23C vernier engines. The 49 ft (15 m) long third stage measures 9.5 ft (2.9 m) in diameter and is powered by two YF-40 engines.

Thursday’s mission marked the 288th launch overall of the Long March rocket series and the 28th orbital flight conducted by China in 2018. Next orbital flight from Chinese soil is expected to take place on October 27, when LandSpace, a Beijing-based startup, plans to launch its light-weight Zhuque-1 rocket to deliver the Weilai 1 satellite into space.

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