February 26, 2017

China puts government surveillance satellite in orbit

The Yaogan 22 satellite lifted off on a Long March 4C rocket at 2:31 p.m. Beijing time Monday. Credit: Xinhua
The Yaogan 22 satellite lifted off on a Long March 4C rocket at 2:31 p.m. Beijing time Monday. Credit: Xinhua

China sent a reconnaissance satellite into orbit Monday from the Taiyuan space center, expanding the country’s network of intelligence-gathering spacecraft.

The Yaogan 22 satellite lifted off at 0631 GMT (2:31 a.m. EDT) Monday aboard a three-stage Long March 4C rocket from the Taiyuan space base in northern China’s Shanxi province, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

The liftoff occurred at 2:31 p.m. Beijing time, and the liquid-fueled launcher put the Yaogan 22 spacecraft into the planned orbit, Xinhua reported.

China did not announce the launch ahead of time, keeping with standard practice for nearly all Chinese rocket flights.

Tracking data from the U.S. Air Force’s Space Surveillance Network indicated the satellite was put into orbit 1,200 kilometers, or 745 miles, above Earth at an inclination of about 100 degrees.

“The satellite will be used for scientific experiments, natural resource surveying, estimating crop yields and disaster relief,” Xinhua reported.

But Western analysts believe Yaogan satellites conduct global surveillance with high-resolution imaging payloads for Chinese intelligence and military authorities.

Yaogan 22’s launch mimics previous launches in December 2009, May 2012 and November 2013, which used the same type of Long March rocket, the same launch facility and put a satellite in nearly identical orbits.

The “Yaogan” name may be a cover for China’s spy satellite missions.

Monday’s launch marked the seventh Chinese space launch of the year, and the 63rd rocket flight to reach orbit worldwide in 2014.