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China conducts surprise launch of Long March 2C with Haiyang-1C marine satellite

A Long March 2C with the Haiyang-1C spacecraft lifts off Sept. 7, 2018, from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. Photo Credit: Xinhua/Zheng Taotao

A Long March 2C with the Haiyang-1C spacecraft lifts off Sept. 7, 2018, from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. Photo Credit: Xinhua/Zheng Taotao

China launched a Long March 2C booster on a mission to deliver the Haiyang-1C marine satellite into space. The rocket lifted off at 11:15 p.m. EDT Sept. 6 (11:15 a.m. local time / 03:15 GMT Sept. 7), 2018, from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in China’s Shanxi Province.

The launch was unannounced with only a notice to airmen (NOTAM) published Sept. 6 indicating an imminent orbital mission. Confirmation of a successful launch came from the state-run Xinhua press agency some three hours after liftoff.

“China sent a new marine satellite into orbit Friday to help improve understanding of maritime waters and climate change,” Xinhua reported.

Chinese officials have not disclosed any details about the orbital flight. However, given that the satellite was delivered into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) at an altitude of about 485 miles (780 kilometers), the mission most likely lasted around 20-30 minutes from liftoff to the payload deployment.

Haiyang-1C was developed by China Spacesat Co., Ltd, a subsidiary of the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST). It weighs some 974 pounds (442 kilograms) and is based on the CAST968 platform, which features two deployable solar arrays and batteries generating up to 510 watts of power. Its dimensions are: 4.6 x 3.6 x 3.13 feet (1.4 x 1.1 x 0.953 meters).

According to China’s State Administration of Science, Technology and Industry for National Defense, Haiyang-1C is expected to be operated by CAST for five years to help monitor ocean color and water temperatures, providing basic data for research on the global oceanic environment. It will also be used to survey the resources and environment of China’s offshore waters, islands and coastal zones as well as help with marine disaster relief and the sustainable utilization of ocean resources.

In order to complete its planned tasks, Haiyang-1C is equipped with a medium-resolution optical imager called China Ocean Color and Temperature Scanner as well as a multi-spectral push broom CCD instrument known as the Coastal Zone Imager.

Wang Lili, chief designer of Haiyang-1C, said the spacecraft will be able to detect chlorophyll and suspended sediment concentrations and dissolved organic matter, which can affect ocean color as well as temperatures on the sea surface. Such data could help survey fishery and aquaculture resources and environments.

Haiyang-1C is the third satellite in the series. Haiyang-1A was launched in May 2002 with Haiyang-1B flying about five years later in April 2007. Xinhua reported that Haiyang-1C, along with Haiyang-1D (scheduled for launch in 2019), is expected to improve China’s ocean remote sensing capability.

The Long March 2C booster used for Friday’s flight is a two-stage rocket developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology. It is mainly used to send satellites into low-Earth orbit (LEO) and SSO. The 138-foot (42-meter) tall launch vehicle is capable of lifting payloads of up to 3.85 metric tons to LEO and has an SSO capacity of up to 1.4 metric tons. For some missions, an optional third stage can be included.

Friday’s mission marked the 284th launch overall of the Long March rocket series and the 24th orbital flight conducted by China in 2018. The country is currently targeted Sept. 20, 2018, for its next mission, which is expected to see a Kuaizhou 1A rocket to deliver the Centispace-1 1S into an SSO.

Video courtesy of SciNews



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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