Spaceflight Insider

Long March 2D successfully launches Yaogan-30 remote sensing satellite

A Long March 2D rocket carrying the Yaogan-30 remote sensing satellite

A Long March 2D rocket carrying the Yaogan-30 remote sensing satellite blasts off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on May 15, 2016. Photo Credit: Xinhua / Wang Jiangbo

China successfully conducted its fifth orbital launch this year, sending the Yaogan-30 remote sensing satellite into space. The spacecraft lifted off at 10:43 a.m. local time on Sunday, May 15 (10:43 p.m. EDT Saturday, May 14) atop a Long March 2D rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, located at Jiuquan in northwest China’s Gansu Province.

The unannounced launch was confirmed by China’s state-run media about one hour after liftoff when the satellite was already successfully placed into orbit. The liftoff was also confirmed by USSTRATCOM, which gave the spacecraft the designation number 2016-029A/41473.

A Long March 2D rocket flies spaceward carrying the Yaogan-30 remote sensing satellite.

A Long March 2D rocket flies spaceward carrying the Yaogan-30 remote sensing satellite. Photo Credit: Xinhua / Wang Jiangbo

China’s Xinhua news agency claimed Yaogan-30 will be used for experiments, land surveys, crop yield estimates, and disaster relief purposes. However, as was the case in previous Yaogan launches, western analysts believe that the newly-launched spacecraft is fitted with electronic intelligence (ELINT) – electro-optical and synthetic aperture radar-sensing equipment to conduct military reconnaissance on a global scale.

According to USSTRATCOM, Yaogan-30 was launched into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) of 429 by 437 miles (690 by 704 kilometers) with inclination at 98.23 degrees. It now remains in an orbit of 389 by 407 miles (626 by 655 kilometers), inclined 98.07 degrees.

There are only a few technical details available about the satellite. It is probably an electro-optical observation spacecraft based on the military Jianbing-6 series. Yaogan-30 was built by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) and features two deployable solar arrays along with batteries. The spacecraft uses the CAST-2000 platform, which has a 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. All Yaogan satellites were launched by Long March 2D rockets from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

The Long March 2D, used for Sunday’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 low-Earth orbit (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 an 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.

Sunday’s flight was the 227th flight of the Long March rocket series. It was also the second orbital launch from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in 2016.

China’s next flight is currently planned for late June 2016 when a new version of the Long March booster, the Long March 7, will conduct its maiden flight. It will also be the first launch conducted from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center, located on the Hainan Island, in southern China. The country plans more than 20 space missions this year.

Video courtesy of CCTV

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Tomasz Nowakowski is the owner of Astro Watch, one of the premier astronomy and science-related blogs on the internet. Nowakowski reached out to SpaceFlight Insider in an effort to have the two space-related websites collaborate. Nowakowski's generous offer was gratefully received with the two organizations now working to better relay important developments as they pertain to space exploration.

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