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China launches military communications satellite to orbit (video)

China’s busy spaceflight year continues.

The country launched its 38th orbital mission of 2022 on Tuesday (Sept. 13), sending the Zhongxing-1E satellite aloft atop a Long March 7A rocket. The launcher lifted off at 9: 18 a.m. EDT (1318 GMT; 9: 18 p.m. Beijing time) from the Wenchang Space Launch Site on the island of Hainan and successfully delivered its payload to geostationary transfer orbit (GTO) as planned, Chinese space officials said (opens in new tab).

Zhongxing-1E was built by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST). China has said little concerning the spacecraft, describing it generally terms as a communications satellite.

Related: China’s Long March rocket family: History and photos

A Long March 7A rocket carrying the Zhongxing-1E satellite launches from China's Wenchang Space Launch Site on Sept. 13, 2022.

AN EXTENDED March 7A rocket carrying the Zhongxing-1E communications satellite launches from China’s Wenchang Space Launch Site on Sept. 13, 2022. (Image credit: CCTV)

“The vague description of the satellite matches statements for earlier Zhongxing-1 series satellites,” Andrew Jones reported for Space News (opens in new tab). “Having less information and images of the satellite shows that the satellite series serves military customers.”

The newest satellite in the series, Zhongxing-1D, launched in November 2021 atop an extended March 3B rocket from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern China, Jones wrote.

“The switch of launcher and spaceport for the Zhongxing-1E launch, alongside wording in a CAST news release (opens in new tab), suggests a more substantial, heavier satellite bus than earlier satellites,” he wrote, noting that the Long March 3 is considerably less powerful compared to the 197-foot-tall (60 meters) Long March 7A. “The satellite was also transported by ship from Tianjin to Wenchang, whereas satellites are flown to Xichang.”

But it is also possible, Jones wrote, that China is merely leaving the Long March 3B and toward the 7A for launches to GTO. Not only is it less powerful compared to the 7A, the 3B is considerably older; it debuted in 1996, whereas the 7A’s first successful flight occurred just this past year.

China isn’t alone in setting a breakneck launch pace this season. SpaceX has recently conducted 41 orbital missions in 2022, a lot of them specialized in building out its huge Starlink broadband constellation.

Mike Wall may be the writer of “ON THE MARKET (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book concerning the seek out alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).

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Michael Wall is really a Senior Space Writer (opens in new tab)and joined the team in 2010.He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been recognized to dabble in the area art beat.His book concerning the seek out alien life, “ON THE MARKET,” was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before learning to be a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He’s got a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor’s degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To discover what his latest project is, it is possible to follow Michael on Twitter.

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