Spaceflight Insider

Long March 2C sends Yaogan-30 trio into orbit

Long March 2C launches from Xichang Satellite Launch Center with three Yaogan-30 02 reconnaissance satellites.

Long March 2C launches from Xichang Satellite Launch Center with three Yaogan-30 02 reconnaissance satellites. Photo Credit: Xinhua/Yang Zhongzhou

China has successfully carried out its fourth orbital launch this month, sending three Yaogan-30 02 reconnaissance satellites to orbit. The trio blasted off atop a Long March 2C booster at 2:10 a.m. local time on Saturday, Nov. 25 (18:10 GMT on Friday, November 24), from LC3 Launch Complex at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

Saturday’s launch was another secretive one performed by Beijing as the details about the mission, its exact date and identity of the payload were kept under tight wraps. Although Chinese state-run press agency Xinhua confirmed the success of the mission within an hour after liftoff, noting that the satellites will “conduct electromagnetic probes and other experiments.” Western analysts believe that they will be employed for military purposes.

Completing a short vertical ascent after liftoff, the Long March 2C rocket started heading southeast, over mainland China and Taiwan, towards the Philippine Sea. The flight ended with the insertion of the three satellites into low-Earth orbit (LEO) at an altitude of 367 by 375 miles (590 by 604 kilometers), inclined 35 degrees.

“The satellites [have] entered the preset orbit and Saturday’s launching mission was proclaimed a success,” Xinhua reported.

Developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the Yaogan-30 02 trio consists of three identical satellites equipped with two deployable solar arrays. Detailed technical parameters of this group were not disclosed by China.

Yaogan is a series of Earth-observing satellites launched by China since 2006. Although Chinese officials insist that these spacecraft are used for civilian purposes, experts suppose that Yaogan is a network of spy satellites.

The previous Yaogan trio of satellites, Yaogan-30 01, was launched into space by a Long March 2C rocket on September 29, 2017.

The Long March 2C booster used for Saturday’s launch is a two-stage rocket developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT). It is mainly used to launch satellites into LEO and Sun-synchronous orbits (SSO). The 138 feet (42 meters) tall launch vehicle is capable of lofting payloads of up to 3.85 metric tons to LEO and has an SSO capability of up to 1.4 metric tons. For some launches, the rocket could fly with an optional third stage.

Long March 2C carried out its first flight on September 9, 1982, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, orbiting the Fanhui Shei Weixing recoverable satellite.

Saturday’s launch was the 256th flight of the Long March rocket series. It was also the sixth orbital launch from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in 2017 and the 14th mission conducted by China this year.

The next Chinese launch is currently scheduled to take place on Nov. 25 when a Long March 3B rocket is scheduled to lift off from Xichang, carrying two BeiDou-3 navigation satellites.

Video courtesy of CCTV+



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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