China launches four satellites on Long March 2D rocket

A Long March 2D rocket lifts off from the Taiyuan space base with four satellites. Credit: CASC

China launched four small satellites June 10 on a Long March 2D rocket, beginning Earth observation, asteroid monitoring, and technology demonstration missions.

The hydrazine-fueled Long March 2D rocket lifted off at 11:03 p.m. EDT June 10 (0303 GMT June 11) from the Taiyuan launch base in Shanxi province of northern China, according to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., or CASC.

CASC, the state-owned prime contractor for China’s space program, said the launch occurred at 11:03 a.m. Beijing time.

The two-stage Long March 2D rocket delivered its payloads into a polar orbit with an average altitude of about 307 miles (494 kilometers), according to tracking data published by the U.S. military. The satellites are orbiting Earth at an inclination of 97.5 degrees to the equator.

One of the four satellites aboard the rocket, named Beijing 3, is an agile optical remote sensing spacecraft, according to CASC.

Beijing 3 is owned by 21st Century Aerospace Technology, or 21AT, a Chinese remote sensing company. The spacecraft was built by Aerospace Dongfanghong Satellite Co. Ltd., a division of the China Academy of Space Technology, according to CASC.

CASC said the Beijing 3 satellite “can quickly obtain high-quality, high-resolution, and high-precision ground imagery, greatly improving (China’s) commercial remote sensing satellite technology level.”

Beijing 3 is 21AT’s first Chinese-built satellite. Beijing 1, which launched in 2005, and the three-satellite Beijing 2 constellation launched in 2015 were manufactured by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. in the United Kingdom.

21AT’s satellites provide commercially available remote sensing images, supporting land and resources management, crop and environmental monitoring, urban planning, and disaster response.

Another satellite on the Long March 2D rocket, named Haisi 2, is a small optical Earth observation satellite tasked with collecting imagery of shallow coastal waters and inland water bodies, CASC said. Haisi 2 was jointly developed by Aerospace Dongfanghong Satellite Co. Ltd. and Xiamen University.

The Long March 2D rocket also launched the Yangwang 1 satellite for a Chinese company named Origin Space. CASC said the small spacecraft carries a visible and ultraviolet astronomical telescope with a large field of view. Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, said the satellite’s purpose is for “asteroid resource exploration and research.”

The other spacecraft on the Long March 2D rocket was Tianjian, which will be used by Chinese aerospace engineering students to test new satellite health management and fault protection technology.

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