Long March 2C set to launch Yaogan-30 trio into orbit
China is preparing to conduct its fifth orbital mission this month by launching a Long March 2C rocket with three Yaogan-30 satellites.
The booster is scheduled to liftoff on Thursday, January 25, from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center (XSLC). The launch is currently scheduled to take place at around 5:40 GMT (0:40 a.m. EST).
Very little is known about the preparations that have led up to the flight, or about the mission’s payload. The spacecraft will most likely be inserted into a low-Earth orbit (LEO) at an altitude of about 373 miles (600 kilometers).
Chinese media has described Yaogan-30 as remote sensing satellites dedicated for civilian purposes. Beijing insists that these spacecraft are designed to conduct scientific experiments, land surveys, crop yield estimates and disaster relief. According to Xhinhua state-run press agency, the latest Yaogan-30 trio, was launched on December 26, 2017 and was sent into space to carry out electromagnetic environmental probes and other experiments.
Western experts believe that the Yaogan-30 spacecraft will be employed for military purposes. Some of these have suggested that the Yaogan name is a cover for China’s spy satellite program.
Developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), the Yaogan-30 04 trio consists of three identical satellites, designated Yaogan-30 J, K and L, each are equipped with two deployable solar arrays. Detailed technical parameters of this group as well as previous spacecraft in the series were not disclosed by China. However, Western analysts suspect that each Yaogan satellite employs either optical or synthetic aperture radar (SAR) sensors.
A report issued in January 2015 by the National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bangalore, India, suggests that the Yaogan satellites enable China to routinely identify, locate and track an aircraft carrier group on the high seas. The Yaogan network could therefore be an important component of an Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) system that Beijing is developing and fielding.
“The Chinese have in place a robust space based system that performs the location and tracking functions for the ASBM system,” the report reads.
The first Yaogan satellite was launched in April of 2006, while the first Yaogan-30 trio was delivered into space on September 29 of last year (2017). The newest trio, slated to be sent to orbit on Thursday, should expand the network of Yaogan-30 spacecraft in space to 12.
The Long March 2C booster used for this flight is a two-stage launch vehicle 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.
The Long March 2C rocket carried out its first flight on September 9, 1982, from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, orbiting the Fanhui Shei Weixing recoverable satellite.
Thursday’s launch should be the 265th flight of the Long March launch vehicle series and the second mission conducted from XSLC this year.
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