China completes 2009 schedule by launching another spy satellite

by Rui C. Barbosa

China have launched the YaoGan Weinxing-8 “remote sensing” satellite via a CZ-4C Chang Zheng-4C from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center early on Tuesday. The final launch of the year is being classed as an Earth Monitoring satellite by the Chinese media. However, experts have revealed the bird is the latest to be equipped with reconnaissance hardware.

Chinese launch:

The new satellite is intended for “scientific experiments, land survey, crop yield assessment, and disaster monitoring” purposes, with the previous satellite in the series, YaoGan Weixing-7, was launched just five days ago from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on a CZ-2D Chang Zheng-2D launch vehicle.

Analyzing the other previous launches in this series, it’s believed there are two versions of this spacecraft; a synthetic aperture radar imaging series and an electro-optical observation series.

The first YaoGan Weixing satellite (29092 2006-015A) was launched by a CZ-4C Chang Zheng-4C (CZ4C-1) from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center on April 27, 2006. At the time the details about this satellite were closely guarded by the Chinese, before being revealed as the first Jian Bing-5 satellite – equipped with the first space-based synthetic aperture radar (SAR).

The YaoGan Weixing-2 (31490 2007-019A) was launched on 25 May, 2007, on a CZ-2D Chang Zheng-2D (CZ2D-8) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Details were also restricted, though it is claimed that this spacecraft was an electro-optical military observation satellite, complementing the results of the YaoGan Weixing-1.

On November 12, 2007, the YaoGan Weixing-3 (32289 2007-055A) satellite was launched by a CZ-4C Chang Zheng-4C (CZ4C-2) launch vehicle from Taiyuan. This satellite was noted as the second Jian Bing-3 SAR satellite.

On December 1, 2008, YaoGan Weixing-4 (33446 2008-061A) – the second electro-optical satellite on the series – was launched by a CZ-2D Chang Zheng-2D from Jiuquan, and on December 15, 2008, YaoGan Weixing-5 (33456 2008-064A) was launched by a CZ-4B Chang Zheng-4B (CZ4B-12) from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. It is believed this satellite was the fourth SAR bird on the series.

YaoGan Weixing-6 (34839 2009-021A) was launched by a CZ-2C Chang Zheng-2C-III from Taiyuan on April 22 this year and it is believed this satellite was the fifth SAR satellite.

Also riding on the Long March rocket was the XW-1 Xi Wang-1 – formerly known as CAS-1 (China Amateur radio Satellite) – which is the first Chinese amateur satellite to launch with a government launcher.

According to the International Amateur Radio Union, the payload of XW-1 includes Telemetry Beacon, Linear Transponder, FM repeater and Digital Store-forward Transponder. One watt output is planned for the transponder and 200mW for the beacon.

The satellite is understood to have a mass of 50 kg – though other sources point to a 35 kg mass with a amateur radio payload of 5.2 kg. The satellite contains a 1.6 kg experimental payload and a 0.2 kg CMOS camera.

XW-1 is 0.55m by 0.35m sized satellite and is powered by a Li ion 16 Ah battery. The satellite will operate in a Sun Synchronous Orbit at 499 km mean altitude, with an inclination of 98 degrees and an orbital period of 94 minutes.

This launch was the sixth orbital launch by China this year, the 122nd Chinese orbital launch, the 29th orbital launch from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, and the second orbital launch from Taiyuan this year. This was the fourth use of a CZ-4C Chang Zheng-4C launch vehicle.

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 are two launch complex buildings in Taiyuan.

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