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Long March 2D sends 5 satellites into orbit

A Chinese Long March 2D launches five satellites on Nov. 20, 2018. Photo Credit: Xinhua

A Chinese Long March 2D launches five satellites on Nov. 20, 2018. Photo Credit: Xinhua

A Long March 2D rocket took to the skies early Tuesday morning Beijing time to orbit the Shiyan-6 Earth-observing spacecraft and four smaller satellites for China.

Liftoff occurred at 7:40 a.m. China Standard Time Nov. 20 (23:40 GMT / 6:40 p.m. EST Nov. 19), 2018. The booster rocketed skyward from Launch Area 4 at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center (JSLC) in Gansu Province. Confirmation of mission success came from the state-run Xinhua press agency some five hours after liftoff.

“The satellites have successfully entered their preset orbit, according to the center [JSLC],” Xinhua reported.

The mission’s goal was to deliver its satellite passengers into a low-Earth orbit (LEO). While Chinese media have not offered any details about the orbital flight, it most likely lasted around 15-30 minutes if a Long March 2D nominal flight profile was used.

Additionally, the identity of four other satellites that piggybacked on the mission has not yet been officially confirmed. Xinhua only reported that they are nanosatellites, not disclosing any details about them.

Shiyan-6, however, is a space environment research satellite, which according to Xinhua will be employed for conducting space environment exploration experiments. The first satellite in the series, Shiyan-1, was launched in April 2004.

Western media outlets, including NASASpaceflight.com, reported that the quartet of Shiyan-6’s co-passengers most likely consists of: Jiading-1, Tianzhi-1, Tianping-1A and Tianping-1B.

Developed by Chinese company Shanghai OK Space, Jiading-1 (also known as OKW-01) is China’s first privately-designed LEO communications satellite. The spacecraft weighs around 110 pounds (50 kilograms) and has dimensions of approximately 27.5 by 16.7 by 19.7 inches (70 by 42.5 by 50 centimeters). The satellite’s main task is to perform tests for the Xiangyun Satellite Constellation project.

Very little is known about Tianzhi-1 and the Tianping-1 duo. According to NASASpaceflight.com, Tianzhi-1, developed by Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), weighs about 59.5 pounds (27 kilograms) and is a technology demonstrator, while both Tianping-1 spacecraft, based on the Pina satellite platform, are expected to be used for accuracy calibration of ground monitoring and control equipment.

The Long March 2D is a two-stage rocket developed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology. It is mainly used to launch satellites to LEO. The 135-foot (41.15-meters) tall booster can loft payloads of up to 3.5 metric tons to LEO and has an Sun-synchronous orbit capability of up to 1.3 metric tons.

The rocket was launched for the first time on Aug. 9, 1992, from JSLC, orbiting the Fanhui Shei Weixing FSW-2-1 recoverable satellite. Tuesday’s mission was the 292nd orbital flight of the Long March rocket series and China’s 34th launch of 2018.

 

 

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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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