Earth observation and research satellites ride Chinese rocket into orbit

China launches a Long March 2D rocket Thursday from the Jiuquan space base. Credit: Xinhua

China sent an Earth observation satellite and a university-built research payload into orbit Thursday aboard a Long March 2D rocket.

The Long March 2D booster launched from the Jiuquan space base in northwestern China at 12:01 a.m. EDT (0401 GMT; 12:01 p.m. Beijing time) Thursday, according to China’s state-run Xinhua news agency.

The two-stage rocket delivered its payloads into a polar orbit around 300 miles (500 kilometers) in altitude, with an inclination of 97.5 degrees to the equator, according to U.S. military tracking data.

Chinese officials announced the launch as a success. It was China’s 22nd orbital launch attempt of 2020, including three missions that failed to place their payloads into orbit.

The primary payload on Thursday’s launch was the Gaofen 9-04 Earth observation satellite, Chinese officials said.

According to Chinese state media, the Gaofen 9-04 satellite “will be mainly used for land surveys, city planning, land right confirmation, road network design, crop yield estimation and disaster prevention and mitigation.”

The Tsinghua Science Satellite rode into orbit as a secondary payload with China’s Gaofen 9-04 Earth observation satellite. Credit: Tsinghua Uninversity

The Gaofen 9-04 spacecraft is the fourth satellite to launch in China’s Gaofen 9-series, following missions launched in 2015 and on May 31 and June 17 of this year. It is not clear whether the Gaofen 9 satellites are identical or only share a name, but Chinese state media reports associated with each launch indicated the payloads all carried optical Earth-imaging cameras with a resolution of better than 3.3 feet, or 1 meter.

China says the Gaofen series of satellites are managed by civilian officials. The Gaofen fleet includes satellites with optical, infrared and radar imaging observatories.

A small spherical satellite developed at Tsinghua University in Beijing accompanied the Gaofen 9-04 satellite. Scientists will use the satellite to collect data on atmospheric density and the gravity field in low Earth orbit

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