China launch Shi Jian-12 satellite on research mission

Continuing its launch surge for 2010, China has launched a new satellite, the SJ-12 – or Shi Jian-12 – on June 15 using a CZ-2D Chang Zheng-2D (Long March 2D) launch vehicle from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

Launch took place at 9:39am local time.


According to a 2006 white paper, China’s “Shijian” (Practice) series of satellites are being use for scientific research and technological experiments. The last satellite of the series, Shi Jian 11-1 (36088 2009-061A), was launched on November 12, 2009. The true mission of Shi Jian 12 hasn’t been fully revealed, other than it is a scientific research satellite.

The CZ-2D Long March 2D launch vehicle is a two-stage rocket developed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology. With storable propellants it is mainly used to launch a variety of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites.

The CZ-2D can launch a 3,500kg cargo into a 200 km circular orbit. Its first stage is the same of 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 126th Chinese orbital launch, the 44th orbital launch from the Jiuquan satellite launch Center, and the 2nd orbital launch from Jiuquan this year and the 4th Chinese orbital launch in 2010. This was the 125th launch of a Chang Zheng launch vehicle.

Also known as the Shuang Cheng Tze launch center, the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, situated on the Gansu Province, 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).

China recently launched a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) for the Compass constellation that will eventually consist of 35 spacecraft, including 30 MEO birds with nine satellites for each orbit plane, along with five GSO spacecraft. Already in orbit are four satellites of this system.

The Compass Navigation Satellite System (CNSS) is China’s second-generation satellite navigation system capable of providing continuous, real-time passive 3D geo-spatial positioning and speed measurement.

In the meantime, preparations continue for the launch of the first Chinese space laboratory, TG-1 Tiangong-1, in the beginning of 2011. Recent news stated Adolfo Italiano, a representative of the provincial government of Neuquen, Argentina, has noted that China is in conversation with his country for the installation of a space antenna.

The Chinese officials also visited two other Argentinian provinces, Rio Negro and Mendonza, before travelling to Chile. China is already constructing an antenna in Mendonza which will debut in 2012.

Other missions planned for 2010 are the launch of the Chang’e-2 lunar probe that Chang’e-2, which will start the Phase II of China lunar exploration and orbit of the Moon at 100 km altitude for the purpose of collecting data for the soft-landing
of Chang’e-3.

They are also working towards the launch of the second Tian Lian satellite for tracking and communications with manned orbital vehicles, the launch of Xinnuo-6 (SinoSat-6) communications satellite. the launch of FY-3B Feng Yun-3B – the second of the the new-generation polar orbit meteorological satellites – and other missions.

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