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Long March rocket orbits Earth observing satellite

Posted: November 9, 2011

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China successfully launched a Long March rocket Wednesday with a military reconnaissance satellite and a university-built technology demonstration spacecraft.

The satellites lifted off at 0321 GMT Wednesday (10:21 p.m. EST Tuesday) from the Taiyuan space center in the Shanxi province of northern China. Launch occurred at 11:21 a.m. Beijing time, according to the state-run Xinhua news agency.

A 150-foot-tall Long March 4B rocket delivered the Yaogan 12 and Tianxun 1 satellites into an orbit 300 miles above Earth with an inclination of 97.4 degrees to the equator, according to U.S. tracking data.

Xinhua reported the Yaogan 12 satellite "will be used to conduct scientific experiments, carry out surveys on land resources, estimate crop yield and help with natural disaster-reduction and prevention."

But Yaogan 12's observing payload could also collect intelligence for the Chinese military. Previous Yaogan spacecraft carried radar and optical sensors.

Tianxun 1 was designed by Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics for a mission of "technological verification tests" in orbit, according to Xinhua.

Wednesday's flight was the 14th space launch attempt this year for China. All but one of the missions have been successful.

It was the 66th space launch to successfully reach orbit worldwide in 2011.