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Long March 4C sends Fengyun-3D and Head-1 into orbit

Long March 4C rocket lifts off from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center (TSLC) with Fengyun 3D and Head-1 satellites.

Long March 4C rocket lifts off from Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center (TSLC) with Fengyun-3D and Head-1 satellites. Photo Credit: Xinhua

Lifting off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center (TSLC) located in China’s Shanxi Province, a Long March 4C rocket has delivered the Fengyun-3D and Head-1 satellites into their orbits. The launch was conducted from TSLC’s LC9 Launch Complex at 18:35 GMT (1:35 p.m. EST) on Tuesday, November 14, 2017.

The mission was initially planned to be launched in 2016 but was rescheduled to late 2017, and the confirmation of the exact date of the liftoff came in late September. The Fengyun-3D satellite and the Long March 4C booster were delivered to TSLC in early June.

The mission was declared a success by the Chinese state-run Xinhua press agency when both satellites were delivered into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO). Debris from the rocket most likely fell somewhere in Hubei province in central China.

Long March-4C / Fengyun-3D launch

Long March-4C launch at 18:35 UTC, Nov. 14, 2017. Photo Credit: Zhang Hongwei / Xinhua

Weighing about 2.3 metric tons, Fengyun-3D is a polar-orbiting meteorological satellite based on the FY-3 platform developed and built by Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST). The satellite’s dimensions are 14.57 by 12.43 feet (4.44 by 3.79 meters), and it also features a deployable solar panel spanning about 33 feet (10 meters).

Fengyun-3D is designed for ocean and ice monitoring purposes. It will also study atmospheric chemistry and space weather. In order to realize these goals, the satellite carries 12 instruments to capture multi-spectral imagery, collect atmospheric soundings, capture microwave and infrared emissions, measure space radiation, and collect ozone measurements.

The spacecraft will operate in a near-circular SSO at an altitude of approximately 520 miles (836 km), for a period of five years.

Fengyun (“Wind Cloud” in Chinese) is a meteorological satellite program managed by China’s National Satellite Meteorological Center. The project is designed to monitor the weather and climate of the Earth by capturing images of clouds and cloud systems.

Fengyun-3 is the third phase of the project initiated in 1988. The first satellite in this series – Fengyun-3A – was launched into space in May 2008. The next Fengyun-3 satellite, Fengyun-3E, is scheduled to be launched into orbit in 2018.

Second, the much smaller payload of Tuesday’s mission is a maritime satellite named Head-1. Operated by a Beijing-based company Head Aerospace, the nearly 100-pound (45-kilogram) spacecraft is designed for ship tracking.

Head-1 features the Automatic Identification System (AIS) payload system, which has good detection rate for the ship’s high-density and medium density areas. Head Aerospace revealed that this system is capable of decoding two million messages from not less than 60,000 ships per day.

Head-1 will reside in an SSO at an altitude of 502 miles (808 kilometers) for up to three years. During this time, Head Aerospace will use its AIS system to complete the coverage of global sea area and key river course, realize the position tracking, navigation and AIS data extension applications of global vessels. The satellite will provide its services to maritime, ports, shipping, fisheries, finance, insurance, and government agencies in China and other coastal countries in Asia.

The Long March 4C booster employed for Tuesday’s launch has a liftoff mass of an estimated 250 metric tons and is some 150 feet (54.7 meters) in length with a diameter of 11 feet (3.4 meters). It is capable of delivering payloads of up to 4.2 metric tons to low-Earth orbit, 2.8 metric tons to an SSO, and up to 1.5 metric tons into a geostationary transfer orbit (GTO).

Tuesday’s launch was the 21st flight of one of the nation’s Long March 4C launch vehicles. The flight also marked the 254th Long March launch overall and the 12th orbital mission conducted by China this year.

The next Chinese launch is currently scheduled for November 21, when a Long March 6 booster carrying three Jilin-1 Earth-observing satellites will lift off from TSLC.

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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