Friday, January 12, 2018

Third Chinese Mission of 2018 to Send LKW-3 and Saudisat 5B into Space

The launch of LKW-2 satellite on December 23, 2017. Credit: Xinhua

China is not slowing down its pace of space launches and plans to perform on Saturday, January 13, its third orbital mission this year by sending LKW-3 and Saudisat 5B into orbit atop a Long March 2D rocket. The launch vehicle will liftoff at around 7:20 GMT (2:20 a.m. EST) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center (JSLC) in China’s Gansu Province.

Although China insists that LKW-3, the mission’s main passenger, is a land-exploration satellite, Western analysts believe that it will be used for military purposes. Moreover, the mission is shrouded in secrecy, what seems to confirm the military nature of the primary payload.

Given that very little information is available about Saturday’s mission, it is only known that the rocket will likely fly for about 10 minutes, burning its first stage for the first three minutes of the flight. Afterward, the rocket’s second stage will assume control over the mission for the remaining seven minutes. The goal of the flight is to place the dual payload into a low-Earth orbit (LEO).

Developed by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST), LKW-3 (Ludikancha Weixing 3, also known as Land Surveying Satellite-3 or Yaogan Weixing 33), 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. Previous spacecraft in the LKW series, designated LKW-1 and LKW-2, were orbited by China on December 3 and December 23, 2017, respectively. The trio of LKW satellites will reside in LEO at an altitude of of approximately 310 miles (500 kilometers).

Weighing some 440 lbs. (200 kilograms), Saudisat 5B is the secondary payload of the mission. It is a Saudi Arabian Earth-observing satellite developed by the King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST). The spacecraft is fitted with solar cells and features a regionally optimized hyper-spectral imaging system.

An agreement to launch Saudisat 5B was signed between Saudi Arabia and China in January 2016. The satellite is part of Saudi Arabia’s 12 year space program, which includes launching KACST-built small satellites every two or three years.

The Long March 2D, which will be employed 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 mission will be the thirds out of about 35-40 launches in 2018. The record-breaking launch manifest includes the Chang’e 4 lander – the first spacecraft to attempt a soft landing on the far side of the Moon. The country is also working toward the debut of its new light-lift launcher, Kuaizhou-11, and plans to perform the first orbital launch from a sea platform as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment