China launches five Earth observation satellites on Long March 2D rocket

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A Chinese Long March 2D rocket lifts off Saturday. Credit: Xinhua

China successfully launched five small remote sensing satellites on top of a Long March 2D rocket Saturday into an orbit more than 330 miles above Earth.

The five spacecraft, all from Chinese companies operated using commercial business models, lifted off at 0251 GMT Saturday (10:51 p.m. EDT Friday) from the Taiyuan launch base in Shanxi province located in northern China.

The launch occurred at 10:51 a.m. Beijing time.

A Long March 2D rocket carried the satellites into orbit, and officials declared the launch a success, according to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., the top government-owned enterprise in China’s space program.

Heading south from Taiyuan, the two-stage Long March 2D rocket dropped its first stage over Chinese territory a few minutes after liftoff. A second stage deployed the five payloads into a near-circular polar orbit with an average altitude of around 333 miles (537 kilometers), at an inclination of about 97.5 degrees to the equator, according to tracking data published by the U.S. military.

The Long March 2D rocket deployed four Jilin Earth observation satellites for Chang Guang Satellite Technology Co. Ltd., a commercial remote sensing company based in China’s Jilin province. The company has successfully launched 30 small remote sensing satellites into orbit since 2015.

The mission patch for Saturday’s launch. Credit: CASC

One of the spacecraft launched Saturday is designed for wide area observations. The Jilin 1 Kuanfu 01B satellite collects images along swaths greater than 90 miles (150 kilometers), supporting applications including land and resource management, mineral development, and urban planning, CASC said in a statement.

The launch also carried three Jilin 1 Gaofen, or high-resolution, Earth-imaging microsatellites. The fifth payload on Saturday’s launch was Xingshidai 10, another small satellite with an imaging instrument.

The mission was China’s 20th orbital launch attempt of the year, including one launch failure.

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