China conducts three orbital launches over two days

The country has conducted four classified missions in the past week

HELSINKI — China has launched eight classified remote sensing satellites in three launches in recent days, adding to the country’s developing reconnaissance capabilities.

A Long March 6 kerosene-liquid oxygen rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern China at 7:50 p.m. Eastern Time on September 26, carrying the Shiyan-16A and B and Shiyan-17 satellites. in orbit.

The successful launch was confirmed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) within the hour. No imagery from the satellites was made available and was said to be used primarily for purposes such as “surveying, urban planning and disaster prevention and mitigation”.

A Chinese Institute of Aerospace Studies analysis published earlier this year suggests that Shiyan satellites play a role in the early stages of the process of developing new space systems, including remote sensing.

Just over 48 hours before the launch of Long March 6, a Kuaizhou-1A solid rocket operated by Expace, a commercial spinoff of China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), lifted off from Taiyuan at 6:55 p.m. September Eastern Time. carrying the Shiyan-14 and Shiyan-15 satellites.

The Shiyan satellites were again declared to be “mainly used for surveying, urban planning and disaster prevention and mitigation”. according to Chinese press articles.

The Kuaizhou-1A is capable of carrying 200 kilograms of payload into a 700 kilometer sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) and now launches from China’s three domestic domestic spaceports.

The first launch was in January 2017 and the rocket has now completed four successful flights since June, when it made a return to flight after undergoing his second launch failed in December 2021.

The Kuaizhou-1A has yet to resume spacecraft launches for an 80-satellite narrowband constellation named Xingyun for LEOBIT Technology, another CASIC-owned entity.

Expace develops a series of larger and elevated solid rockets $237 million in June.

Between the above launches, at Xichang Spaceport in southwest China, a Long March 2D hypergolic rocket launched a trio of Yaogan-36-classified satellites, lifting off at 7:38 a.m. on September 26 (1 p.m. 38 UTC). Neither CCAC nor did state media provide descriptions of the satellites in their releases.

Yaogan means “remote sensing” and is usually given generic descriptions in Chinese reports. Western analysts believe that the overall series of Yaogan satellites should be designed to provide a comprehensive military surveillance system, consisting of optical, radar and electronic reconnaissance capabilities.

Yaogan-36 A and B were manufactured by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) in Beijing while the third satellite, C, was provided by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST).

China has already launched a number of groups of Yaogan-35 satellites in the series, with each set of triplets in orbits of approximately 500 by 495 kilometers with an inclination of 35 degrees, providing frequent revisits to areas of interest.

Prior to the above launches, China launched a Long March 2D rocket at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert. The rocket took off at 7:15 p.m. on September 20 Eastern (2315 UTC) sending the Yunhai 1-03 satellite into a 775 x 780 kilometer sun-synchronous orbit.

Chinese state media reported that the satellite is “responsible for studying atmospheric, marine and space environments, providing data to support disaster prevention and mitigation efforts, and conducting scientific experiments”.

The Yunhai series satellites are considered military weather satellites by some Western analysts.

The last mission on September 26 marked China’s 42nd launch in 2022. CASC plans more than 50 launches in 2022 and should launch the third and final module of the Tiangong space station next month.

Chinese companies including Expace, Galactic Energy, Earth spaceiSpace and CAS area also make their own launches during the year.

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