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Long March 3A lifts off with Fengyun 2H weather satellite

Fengyun 2H lifts off atop a Long March 3A launcher on June 5, 2018.

Fengyun 2H lifts off atop a Long March 3A launcher on June 5, 2018. Photo Credit: Liu Kun/Xinhua

A Long March 3A booster was launched June 5, 2018, by China to deliver the Fengyun 2H meteorological spacecraft into space. The rocket lifted off the pad at 9:07 a.m. EDT (13:07 GMT) from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center situated in the country’s Sichuan Province.

China initially scheduled the flight for June 10. However, officials apparently made a last-minute decision to launch the satellite five days ahead of the schedule. The country did not disclose to the public the reason behind this move. 

As was the case with previous Chinese launches, Beijing kept the details about pre-launch preparations under tight wraps. Moreover, the exact timeline of the flight is uncertain. What is known, however, is that the Fengyun 2H satellite is bound for a geosynchronous orbit (GSO).

Taking into account previous Long March 3A missions, it is assumed that the June 5 flight lasted for about half and hour between liftoff and the separation of the satellite. Afterward, the spacecraft continued its trek toward GSO using its onboard propulsion. The success of the mission was confirmed by the Xinhua state-run press agency about two hours after launch.

Developed by the Shanghai Institute of Satellite Engineering, Fengyun 2H weighs some 1.38 metric tons and has a diameter of about 6.9 feet (2.1 meters). It will be operated by China’s National Satellite Meteorological Center.

Xinhua informed that Fengyun 2H is expected to be used to “improve the accuracy of weather forecasting and provide better meteorological services to countries participating in the Belt and Road Initiative.”

Fengyun 2H is equipped in four instruments designed mainly for weather monitoring purposes: the DCS (Data Collection Service), the SEM (Space Environment Monitor), the S-VISSR (Stretched Visible and Infrared Spin Scan Radiometer) and the SXM (Solar X-ray Monitor).

Fengyun (meaning “winds and clouds” in Chinese) is China’s meteorological satellite program and is composed of at least one operational satellite in geostationary orbit and several satellites in polar orbits. The constellation is designed to monitor China and surrounding territories in order to deliver timely data relevant for weather forecasting.

The first satellite in the Fengyun series, Fengyun 1A, was launched in 1988. Fengyun 2H is the final Fengyun 2 satellite. The previous spacecraft of the second series of Fengyun satellites—Fengyun 2G was launched in December 2014.

Beijing intends to replace the Fengyun 1 and 2 series of satellites currently in orbit by a new and improved generation of weather spacecraft—Fengyun 3 for polar orbits and Fengyun 4 for geostationary orbits. To date, four Fengyun 3 and one Fengyun 4 satellites have been orbited.

The 172-foot (52-meter) tall, 11-foot (3.4-meter) wide Long March 3A rocket that was used for the June 5 mission is a three-stage launch vehicle. It is designed to deliver up to 2.6 metric tons of payload into a geostationary transfer orbit and up to 8.5 metric tons to low-Earth orbit. 

The first and second stages of the rocket use storable propellants; in this case, unsymmetrical dimethyl hydrazine (UDMH) and nitrogen tetroxide (N2O4). The third stage employs the cryogenic propellants liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Fully fueled, the rocket has a launch mass of approximately 241 metric tons.

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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