China launches four satellites on Long March 2C rocket

A Long March 2C rocket lifts off Thursday with four Chinese satellites. Credit: Xinhua

Three Chinese military satellites and a civilian data relay payload launched Thursday aboard a Long March 2C rocket.

The four spacecraft rocketed into a 370-mile-high (600-kilometer) orbit from the Xichang launch base, situated in a mountainous part of Sichuan province in southwestern China, with a liftoff at 1811 GMT (2:11 p.m. EDT) Thursday.

Launch occurred at 2:11 a.m. Beijing time Friday, according to the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, or CALT, the government-owned contractor that proceed the Long March 2C rocket.

Officials declared the mission a “complete success,” according to a CALT statement. U.S. military tracking data indicated the two-stage, liquid-fueled rocket delivered its payloads to the intended orbit inclined 35 degrees to the equator.

The satellites are the eighth triplet of Yaogan 30-type spacecraft since 2017 launched on Long March 2C rockets from the Xichang facility into similar orbits. The three Yaogan 30-08 satellites launched Thursday are designed for “electromagnetic environmental detection and related technological tests,” China’s state-run Xinhua news agency said.

The Chinese government uses the Yaogan name for the country’s military satellites, and the Yaogan 30 family is believed to be designed for a signals intelligence mission.

Some analysts suggested the Yaogan 30 family of satellites could be testing new electronic eavesdropping equipment, or helping the Chinese military track U.S. and other foreign naval deployments. But details about the spacecraft and their missions have not been disclosed by the Chinese government.

The other satellite launched Thursday was Tianqi 12, a small commercial data relay satellite for the Beijing-based company Guodian Gaoke.

The launch of the three Yaogan 30 satellites was the 13th orbital launch attempt from China so far this year. Twelve of the missions have been successful.

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