China launches military spy satellite

A Long March 4C rocket lifts off with the Yaogan 34-02 satellite. Credit: CASC

China launched a classified military remote sensing satellite March 17 on a Long March 4C rocket. The three-stage rocket placed the Yaogan 34-02 satellite into an orbit at an altitude of 680 miles (1,100 kilometers).

The Long March 4C lifted off from the Jiuquan space center in the Gobi Desert of northwestern China at 0709 GMT (3:09 a.m. EDT) on March 17. The launch occurred at 3:09 p.m. Beijing time, according to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., the country’s largest state-owned space industry contractor.

The liquid-fueled rocket placed the Yaogan 34-02 satellite into an orbit 680 miles above Earth, with an inclination of 63.4 degrees to the equator, according to publicly-available U.S. military tracking data.

CASC said the new satellite will operate in a network with the Yaogan 34-01 remote sensing satellite launched last year. China’s state media said the satellite “will be used for the survey of land resources, urban planning, crop yield estimation, and disaster prevention and reduction.”

Yaogan 34-02 will also be able to rapidly revisit regions on Earth, providing regularly-updated imagery of the same location.

China uses the Yaogan name as a cover for military spy satellites. Chinese officials didn’t mention any military use for the Yaogan 34-02 satellite., but CASC last year said Yaogan 34-01 will support “national defense” efforts.

The launch March 17 marked the 27th mission worldwide this year to successfully reach orbit, and the sixth Chinese space launch since Jan. 1.

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