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China launches for record 11th time in 2008

Posted: December 23, 2008

China launched a new geostationary weather satellite early Tuesday, marking the country's 11th successful space launch of the year and setting a new record for Chinese space activity.

The Feng Yun 2E satellite blasted off aboard a Long March 3A rocket at 0054 GMT (8:54 a.m. local time) from the Xichang launch center in southwestern China's Sichuan province.

The 172-foot-tall launcher flew east from Xichang and deployed the 3,064-pound spacecraft about 24 minutes after liftoff, according to the state-owned Xinhua news agency.

Feng Yun 2E will join a fleet of geostationary weather satellites operated by the China Meteorological Administration. The spacecraft will collect real-time weather imagery for forecasters in China and neighboring countries.

The new satellite will replace Feng Yun 2C, which was launched in 2004 and is stationed along the equator at 105 degrees east longitude.

China also operates a constellation of weather satellites in polar orbit. A new craft was added to that group during a launch earlier this year.

Tuesday's mission was the 11th Chinese space launch of the year, breaking the country's previous record number of launches set last year.

The launch also pushed China past the 10 successful orbital flights conducted by U.S. expendable launch vehicles in 2008. Those missions were flown by Delta 2, Atlas 5, Pegasus and Falcon 1 rockets.

Long March rockets have completed 115 launches since China orbited its first satellite in 1970, Xinhua reported.