Sunday, December 30, 2018

Long March 2D Launches Hongyan-1 and Six Smaller Satellites into Orbit

Long March 2D launch on December 29, 2018. Credit: Xinhua/Hao Wei

China carried out the last global orbital launch of 2018 on Saturday with a Long March 2D sending the Hongyan-1 communications satellite and six smaller passengers into low Earth orbits.

The hypergolic-fueled launch vehicle lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert at 08:00 UTC (03:00 Eastern, 16:00 Beijing time) December 21 carrying seven satellites.

"China successfully sent six atmospheric environment research satellites and a test communication satellite into orbit Saturday," the state-run Xinhua press agency said.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) declared the mission a success close to four hours later. The announcement came later than usual due to the involvement of a new Yuanzheng-3 upper stage which was used to send the satellites into varying orbits.

The United States' Joint Space Operations Center, under USSTRATCOM, which detects and identifies artificial objects in Earth orbit, has tracked four spacecraft in roughly 1,100 x 1,090 kilometer altitude orbits, with three more in 525 x 515 km orbits, all with a 50 degree inclination.

This first Hongyan satellite will be used to test L- and Ka-band communication capabilities and compatibility in low Earth orbit (LEO), as one of nine satellites orbited by 2020 as a pilot demonstration for the Hongyan ('wild goose' or 'swan goose') mobile communications system, with the name likely coming from the fact that geese were used to deliver messages in ancient times in China.

Joining the Hongyan-1 communications satellite were six Yunhai-2 satellites which will be used to study atmospheric environment, monitor space environment, prevent and reduce disasters and conduct scientific experiments.