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China launches a third band of Yaogan 35 spy satellites

Liftoff of a Long March 2D rocket carrying the three Yaogan 35 (03 group) satellites from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern China.

Liftoff of an extended March 2D rocket carrying the three Yaogan 35 (03 group) satellites from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern China.(Image credit: CASC)

China added three new satellites to its classified Yaogan Earth observation and reconnaissance series with the most recent launch out from the hills of southwest China.

A Long March 2D rocket lifted off at 9: 28 EDT (1328 GMT, 9: 28 p.m. local) on July 7 from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province carrying three satellites designated as Yaogan 35 (03 group).

The brand new trio join two sets of Yaogan 25 satellite triplets that have been sent into orbit by two similar launches in November 2021 and June this season. All nine satellites are actually orbiting at roughly 310 miles (500 kilometers) above the Earth, having an inclination of 35 degrees to be able to provide regular, repeated passes over regions of interest.

Related: The most recent news about China’s space program

Little is well known about most Yaogan (“remote sensing”) satellites and descriptions of these uses are usually vague.

The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), which developed both rocket and spacecraft for the mission, stated (opens in new tab)that the satellites will be useful for space scientific experiments, monitoring land usage and natural resources, along with other scientific purposes.

However, the European Space Policy Institute (ESPI) notes in its recently published yearbook (opens in new tab)on space activities that China’s Yaogan series satellites are perceived by analysts to serve both civil and military users.

Much like the earlier couple of Yaogan 35 satellite launches, two of the three satellites were produced by the Aerospace Dongfanghong Satellite Co., Ltd., with the 3rd supplied by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST), both which operate under CASC.

A mission patch released by SAST indicates that the payload adapter, which serves being an interface between a rocket stage and the spacecraft being sent into orbit, posesses drag sail made to help deorbit the roughly 660-pound (300-kilogram) adapter much earlier than otherwise. SAST debuted the drag sail on the prior Long March 2D launch from Xichang in June.

The launch was China’s 27th of the entire year. CASC plans to launch a lot more than 50 times throughout 2022.

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Andrew Jones

Andrewis a freelance space journalist with a concentrate on reporting on China’s rapidly growing space sector. He began writingfor in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist among others.Andrewfirst caught the area bug when, as a young child,hesaw Voyager images of other worlds inside our solar system for the firsttime.From space,Andrewenjoys trail running in the forests of Finland.It is possible to follow him on Twitter@AJ_FI (opens in new tab).

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