China launches Long March 4B rocket with Yaogan 28 satellite

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A Long March 4B rocket carrying the Yaogan 28 satellite blasts off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on Nov. 8, 2015. Photo Credit: Xinhua / Guo Yu

China conducted a secretive launch on Sunday, Nov. 8, lofting the Yaogan 28 satellite into orbit. A Long March 4B rocket carrying the satellite lifted off at 3:06 a.m. EDT (7:06 GMT) from the Launch Complex 9 at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, located in Shanxi Province, north China.

Like many other Chinese launches, there was no prior announcement that the mission was set for liftoff. Nor was any prior notice was given by the state-run media outlets.

China’s Xinhua news agency stated that the Yaogan 28 satellite will be used for experiments, land surveys, crop yield estimates and disaster relief.

Western observers believe that this spacecraft is a military-operated Earth-imaging satellite. The ‘Yaogan’ designation could be a means to hide its true nature.

With scant information being provided about its capabilities, little is known about Yaogan 28. The satellite was built by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST) and is based on the Phoenix Eye-2 platform. The spacecraft is capable of high-resolution observation and also carries an infrared payload. It could be using an electronic intelligence (ELINT) system, electro-optical and synthetic aperture radar sensing equipment.

Data released by the Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) indicate that the Yaogan 28 satellite was put into a Sun-synchronous orbit (SSO) at an altitude of approximately 300 miles (483 kiloneters), inclined 97 degrees.

The first satellite in the Yaogan series was launched on Apr. 26, 2006 by a Long March 4B booster, from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. It was China’s first space-based synthetic aperture radar spacecraft.

The three-stage Long March 4B carrier rocket employed for Sunday’s launch is China’s long-serving booster, designed to deliver satellites into low Earth (LEO) and sun synchronous orbits. The 150 ft. tall launch vehicle is in service for over 16 years, and has conducted 26 missions, only one of them was unsuccessful.

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