China dual launch via Chang Zheng-4B

by Rui C. Barbosa

China has launched two new satellites from its Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. The Shi Jian-6 Group-03 satellites (SJ-6E Shi Jian-6E and SJ-6F Shi Jian-6F) were launched by a CZ-4B Chang Zheng-4B (CZ4B-12) at 01:15 UTC.

There has been an element of secrecy surrounding this launch, though previous missions via this particular model of satellite have been used to probe the space environment and to conduct other related space experiments.

According to State-rub CCTV news channel, the new satellites will be used to conduct experiments on “environmental exploration”.

The Shi Jian-6 Group-03 satellites will replace the Shi Jian-6 Group-02 satellites that were launched on October 23, 2006 – also from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center.

Previous satellites in this range were built by the Shanghai Academy of Space Flight Technology and Dongfanghong Satellite Company under subcontract to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

The CZ-4B Chang Zheng-4B launch vehicle was first introduced in May 1999. The rocket is capable of launching a 2800 kg satellite into low Earth orbit, developing 2960000 kN at launch. With a mass of 249000 kg, the CZ-4B is 45.80 meters long and has a diameter of 3.35 meters.

Situated in the Kelan County on the northwest part of the Shanxi Province, the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center is also known by the Wuzhai designation. It is used mainly for polar launches (meteorological, Earth resources and scientific satellites).

The launch center is equipped with a Mission Command and Control Center, a Technical Center and telemetry, tracking and communications centers. There is a launch complex in Taiyuan and recent news points towards the construction of a second launch complex.

The next Chinese should take place on November 2, when a CZ-3B Chang Zheng-4B launch vehicle will orbit the Simon Bolivar (VENESAT-1) communications satellite for Venezuela.

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