Long March 11 scheduled to orbit nine small satellites Friday
China is preparing to perform its fourth launch of this year, with the flight scheduled for Friday, Jan. 19, 2018. The mission will see a Long March 11 booster sending nine satellites into space.
The rocket is set to take to the skies from Launch Area 4 at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center (JSLC) in China’s Gansu province. The exact time of the launch has yet to be announced.
Friday’s mission is slated to orbit a variety of small satellites designed for Earth observation, communications and technology demonstration purposes. However, although the mission includes one payload for a foreign country, China revealed very little information about the flight and pre-launch preparations.
Beijing has not disclosed any information about the flight timeline either. It is only known that all passengers of the Long March 11 booster will be inserted into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO).
The Earth-observing payload of Friday’s mission consists of two identical Jilin-1 satellites, designated Jilin-1 07 and 08, developed and produced by Chang Guang Satellite Technology Co., Ltd. Each Jilin-1 spacecraft weighs around 209 pounds (95 kilograms) and has dimensions of 3.6 by 3.9 feet (1.1 by 1.19 meters). The satellites feature a fixed solar array and are designed to offer their services for more than three years.
Jilin-1 are described as commercial remote sensing satellites designed to provide high-definition video imaging. In particular, if everything goes as planned, the satellites will deliver imaging, video, multispectral, and wide swath coverage of the ground from low-Earth orbit (LEO). The data obtained by these spacecraft is planned for use with land resources monitoring, land surveying and mapping, mineral resources development, city construction, agriculture yield estimation, environmental monitoring, disaster prevention, and other services.
Jilin-1 07 and 08 will join the six other Jilin-1 satellites that are currently in orbit. The next four spacecraft in the series are planned to be launched into space by the end of 2018. In 2020, Chang Guang Satellite Technology aims to have a network of 60 spacecraft in service, hoping that it will provide a 10-minute revisit capability of satellites anywhere in the world. By 2030, this network should expand to some 137 satellites.
On the mission’s manifest is a quartet of six-unit CubeSats known as Xiaoxiang (Xiaoxiang 2, 3, 4 and 5). Developed by Changsha Gaoxinqu Tianyi Research Institute, the satellites are technology demonstrators designed to test a stabilization system for precise, stabilized camera pointing.
Xiaoxiang satellites weigh approximately 17.6 lbs. (eight kilograms) and feature two deployable fixed solar arrays. The quartet will reside in SSO at an altitude of about 310 miles (500 kilometers).
Another technology demonstrator that is set to be launched Friday is the Huaian satellite developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC). It is a small satellite, probably a two-unit CubeSat, with a mass of about 4.4 lbs. (two kilograms). According to Chinese media, Huaian employs mature micro-nano satellite technology, integrates monitoring and control management, image data transmissions and voice data forwarding.
Long March 11 is also being primed to send one more Chinese spacecraft into space – the Quantutong 1 communications satellite for All Graphic Location Network Co. However, no detailed information about the spacecraft was provided by China.
The Long March 11 is a small, solid-fueled quick-reaction launch vehicle developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT). It uses the most powerful solid-rocket motor that China currently manufactures and is mainly used for launching micro-satellites.
The 68-foot (20.8-meter) tall Long March 11 measures some 6.6 feet (2 meters) in diameter and is capable of sending up to 1,500 lbs. (700 kilograms) to LEO and 770 lbs. (350 kilograms) to a SSO. The rocket uses three solid-fueled stages with an auxiliary liquid-fueled upper module for precise insertion capability. The vehicle is utilized via a launch tube mounted on a road mobile vehicle.
To date, the Long March 11 booster has only flown to space two other times – on September 24, 2015 and on November 10, 2016.
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