China launched a government-owned surveillance satellite Sunday, adding another member to the country’s reconnaissance network after liftoff on a Long March 4B booster.
The Yaogan 28 spacecraft is circling Earth in a near-circular polar orbit 468 kilometers, or 290 miles, above Earth after liftoff at 0706 GMT (2:06 a.m. EST) Sunday from the Taiyuan space center in northern China’s Shanxi province.
The mission blasted off aboard a 150-foot-tall Long March 4B rocket from Taiyuan, a remote launch base southwest of Beijing. Liftoff occurred at 3:06 p.m. Beijing time.
The satellite “will be used for experiments, land surveys, crop yield estimates and disaster relief,” reported China’s state-run Xinhua news agency. But the official news outlet never acknowledges the service of Yaogan satellites to China’s military-run space program.
The Yaogan codename is a cover for Chinese military spy satellites, and the specifics of Yaogan 28’s launch match a mission launched in May 2012, which took off at the same launch time — to the minute — with the same type of Long March 4B rocket from Taiyuan. Western experts believe the Yaogan 28 satellite, and its predecessor Yaogan 14 launched in 2012, are high-resolution optical reconnaissance missions.
Keeping with policy for most Chinese space launches, authorities did not announce plans for the liftoff ahead of time.
The launch of Yaogan 28 marked the 27th flight of a Long March 4B rocket since the variant debuted in 1999, and China’s 14th space launch of the year.
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