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Pair of research satellites launched by China

Posted: October 6, 2010

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Two research satellites flew into a nearly 400-mile-high orbit early Wednesday on a Long March rocket, continuing a pace of nearly one Chinese launch a week since the end of July.

A Long March 4B rocket lifted off at 0049 GMT Wednesday (8:49 p.m. EDT Tuesday) from the Taiyuan space center in northern China. The launch occurred a few hours before the Chang'e 2 lunar orbiter arrived at the moon after a five-day journey from Earth.

According to the state-run Xinhua news agency, the 15-story rocket carried two Shijian 6 satellites. U.S. military tracking data show the spacecraft orbiting about 375 miles above Earth with an inclination of about 98 degrees to the equator.

It was the 11th space launch of the year for China. Seven of those missions have been since the end of July, a span of less than 10 weeks.

The payloads are the fourth pair of Shijian 6 satellites. The spacecraft, dubbed Shijian 6G and Shijian 6H, will probe the space environment, according to Xinhua.

No other details of their mission were released.

Shijian satellites are believed to test technology demonstration and space research experiments. Shijian means "practice" in Chinese.

The last set of Shijian 6 satellites launched in October 2008. One of the craft, Shijian 6F, became the target of an orbital rendezvous demonstration in August.

A newly-launched satellite named Shijian 12 approached within 200 meters, or 656 feet, of Shijian 6F in mid-August, according to amateur satellite observations and U.S. Air Force data.