Credit: New China TV
A Long March 6 booster took off Tuesday from China with three Earth observation satellites designed to record high-definition video and color imagery from a perch more than 300 miles above the planet.
The trio of commercial satellites launched from pad 16 at the Taiyuan space center in northeastern China’s Shanxi province at 0450 GMT Tuesday (11:50 p.m. EST Monday). A three-stage Long March 6 rocket delivered the three spacecraft to a polar orbit around 335 miles (540 kilometers) above Earth, according to tracking data released by the U.S. military.
Chinese state media declared the launch successful, giving the light-class Long March 6 rocket a two-for-two record since its inaugural flight in September 2015.
The three Jilin Earth-imaging satellites launched Tuesday — named Jilin 1-04, Jilin 1-05 and Jilin 1-06 — are owned by Chang Guang Satellite Technology Co. Ltd., a commercial spinoff of the Chinese Academy of Sciences.
The company has built and launched eight satellites, including six in the Jilin 1 video imaging constellation. It aims to have 60 satellites in orbit by 2020, providing global coverage and capturing a view of any location in the world as often as every 10 minutes.
Chang Guang’s current customers are largely in the Chinese government and military sector, but officials hope to branch out to corporate and mass market clients, according to a report in January published by the state-run China Daily newspaper.
The addition of three new satellites with Tuesday’s launch is expected to reduce the Jilin network’s revisit time from three days to one day, China Daily reported.
The 95-foot-tall (29-meter) Long March 6 rocket is one of three new Long March-series satellite launchers debuted since 2015. The Long March 6 is a lightweight rocket, capable of hauling up to 1,100 pounds — 500 kilograms — of payload into a sun-synchronous orbit a few hundred miles in altitude, a popular destination for many Earth observation satellites, according to China Daily.
The Long March 6’s first stage is powered by a kerosene-fueled YF-100 main engine, a staged combustion powerplant Chinese engineers have worked on since 2000. The engine generates approximately 120 metric tons, or 264,000 pounds, of thrust. A YF-115 engine provides propulsion for the Long March 6 second stage.
The YF-100 and YF-115 engines are the same new-generation powerplants used on China’s bigger Long March 5 and Long March 7 rockets.
Liquid-fueled thrusters on the Long March 6’s third stage guided the Jilin satellites into their near-circular orbit for deployment.
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