Keeping up busy launch schedule, China launches military telecom satellite

A Long March 3B rocket lifts off with the Chinasat 2E satellite Thursday. Credit: CASC

China launched a communications satellite likely designed for use by the Chinese military Thursday, keeping up a busy schedule of space missions with the country’s fourth orbital launch attempt in barely a week.

The launch Thursday occurred at 12:30 p.m. EDT (1630 GMT), marking China’s 28th orbital launch attempt of the year. Nine of those missions have launched since July 1.

A 184-foot-tall (56-meter) Long March 3B rocket carried the Chinese-built Zhongxing 2E, or Chinasat 2E, communications satellite into orbit after liftoff from the Xichang space center in southwestern China. The launch happened at 12:30 a.m. Beijing time Friday.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., or CASC, China’s largest state-owned space contractor, said the Long March 3B rocket successfully delivered the Zhongxing 2E satellite into its targeted orbit.

The mission aimed to deploy the spacecraft in an elongated geostationary transfer orbit ranging more than 22,000 miles (nearly 36,000 kilometers) above Earth at its apogee, or highest point.

The Zhongxing 2E satellite’s on-board propulsion system will do the rest of the work needed to place the spacecraft in a circular geostationary orbit over the equator, where its orbital velocity will match the rate of Earth’s rotation.

In a statement, CASC said Zhongxing 2E “is a communications and broadcasting satellite.”

Zhongxing 2E is likely based on the DFH-4 satellite design produced by the China Academy of Space Technology, another government-owned contractor in the Chinese space program.

Analysts believe previous satellites in the Zhongxing 2 series, including a spacecraft on a previous launch in 2019, are designed to provide mobile communications services to the Chinese military. Zhongxing 2E likely has a similar mission.

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