China launch remote sensing satellite Yaogan-4 – with potential military use

by Rui C. Barbosa

China has launched a new remote sensing satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The Yaogan-4 satellite was orbited by a CZ-2D Chang Zheng-2D (CZ2D-10) launch vehicle at 04:42UTC.

According to the state media, the Yaogan-4 satellite “will be used for scientific research, land resources surveying, crop yield estimate and disaster prevention and relief, having a positive role in the country’s economic development.” The satellite was developed by the China Academy of Space Technology.

The lack of information about this new bird raises the questions about its military nature. Announced as a remote sensing and disaster relief satellite series, the Yaogan satellite has an obscure mission.

The first Yaogan satellite (29092 2006-015A) was launched by a CZ-4B Chang Zheng-4B/2 (CZ4B-8) from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on April 27, 2006. At the time, the details about this satellite were rare, but later it was said that this was the first Jian Bing-5 satellite – being equipped with the first space-based synthetic aperture radar (SAR).

The Yaogan-2 (31490 2007-019A) was launched on 25 May, 2007 by a CZ-2D Chang Zheng-2D (CZ2D-8) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. The details about this satellite were also rare. but some sources pointed that this could be an optical military observation satellite, complementing the results of the Yaogan-1.

On November 12th, 2007, China launched the Yaogan-3 (32289 2007-055A) satellite by a CZ-4C Chang Zheng-4C (CZ4C-1) launch vehicle from Taiyuan. The Yaogan-3 was said to be the second Jian Bing-3 SAR satellite.

The launch of Yaogan-4 is the second optical observation satellite in the series, complementing the SAR observations of Yaogan-3.

The CZ-2D Long March 2D launch vehicle is a two-stage rocket developed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology. With storable propellants is mainly used to launch a variety of low earth orbit satellites.

The CZ-2D can launch a 3,500kg cargo in a 200 km circular orbit. Its first stage is based on the CZ-4 Chang Zheng-4. The second stage is based on CZ-4 second stage, with an improved equipment bay.

The first launch of the CZ-2D was on August 9th, 1992 from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center orbiting the Fanhui Shei Weixing FSW-2-1 (22072 1992-051A) recoverable satellite.

This launch was the 114th Chinese orbital launch, the 40th orbital launch from the Jiuquan satellite launch Center, and the 3rd orbital launch from Jiuquan this year.

Also known as the Shuang Cheng Tzu launch center, the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center was the first Chinese satellite launch center.

The site includes a Technical Centre, two Launch Complexes, Mission Command and Control Centre, Launch Control Centre, propellant fuelling systems, tracking and communication systems, gas supply systems, weather forecast systems, and logistic support systems. Jiuquan was originally used to launch scientific and recoverable satellites into medium or low earth orbits at high inclinations.

It is also the place from where all the Chinese manned missions are launched. Presently, only the LA4 launch complex (with two launch pads – SLS-1 and SLS-2) is in use.

The first orbital launch took place on April 24, 1970 when the CZ-1 Chang Zheng-1 (CZ1-1) rocket launched the first Chinese satellite, the Dong Fang Hong-1 (04382 1970-034A).

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