China launches military satellite YaoGan Weixing-10

by Rui C. Barbosa

Continuing what is expected to be a launch surge for the second half of 2010, China has launched a new remote sensing satellite on Tuesday, the sixth Chinese launch this year. YaoGan Weixing-10 was launched via a CZ-4C Chang Zheng-4C (Long March) launch vehicle at 06:49 local time on August 10 from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center.

Chinese Launch:

According to the Chinese media, the new satellite is intended for “scientific experiments, land survey, crop yield assessment, and disaster monitoring.” As was the case for previous launches of the YaoGan Weixing series, Western analysts believe this class of satellites is being used for reconnaissance and military purposes.

The previous satellite in the series, YaoGan Weixing-9, was launched March 5th from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center by a CZ-4C Chang Zheng-4C launch vehicle, the same launch vehicle used to launch YG-10.

YaoGan Weixing-9 was made up of three such satellites in orbit, flying in formation to form what appears to akin to a type of Naval Ocean Surveillance System (NOSS).

The ‘YaoGan Weixing’ designation appears to be used in a similar fashion to that of the old Soviet ‘Cosmos’ designation, hiding the true mission of the vehicles launched into orbit.

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 that satellite were closely guarded, before claiming it was the first Jian Bing-5 satellite, equipped with the first space-based Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR).

Next up was the YaoGan Weixing-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. Details were also restricted, though it is claimed that the spacecraft was an electro-optical military observation satellite, complementing the results of the YaoGan Weixing-1.

This was followed 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 – believed to be the fourth SAR bird on the series.

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

YaoGan Weixing-10 was launched by a CZ-4C Chang Zheng-4C launch vehicle that is a optimized version of the CZ-4B Chang Zheng-4B using an upper stage with restart capability and a new interstage adapter between the first and second stages.

This launch was the 128th Chinese orbital launch, the 30th orbital launch from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, and the first orbital launch from Taiyuan this year. This was the sixth 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.

The first orbital launch from Taiyuan took place on September 6, 1988 when the CZ-4 Chang Zheng-4 (CZ4-1) rocket launched the first FY-1A Feng Yun-1A (19467 1988-080A) meteorological satellite.

China plans to launch its second lunar probe, Chang’e-2, next October. The probe will be launched by a CZ-3C Chang Zheng-3C launch vehicle from the Xi Chang space center and before the end of the year is planned the launch of the FY-3B Feng Yun-3B meteorological satellite.

The Chinese schedule for the rest of the year includes the launch of at least another remote sensing bird, the launch of Chinasat-6A communications satellite, the launch of the ST-1B Shen Tong-1B / ZX-20 (2) ZhongXing-20 (2) military communications satellite and the launch of two more BeiDou navigation satellites.

Next year will see the launch of the TG-1 TianGong-1 space module. TiangGong-1 is expected to accomplish the country’s first space docking and is regarded as an essential step toward building a space station.

Weighing about 8.500 kg, TianGong-1 will be able to perform long-term unattended operation, which will be an essential step toward building a space station.

The unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft will achieve China’s first space docking. The docking maneuvers are going to be controlled from the ground. Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10, the two other spaceships to dock with Tiangong-1, would carry a crew of two or three.

TG-1 TianGong-1 is going to be launched by a modified CZ-2F Chang Zheng-2F launch vehicle, sometimes referred to as CZ-2F/G Chang Zheng-2F/G, sporting 170 technological modifications, including 38 major refinements.

China is also advancing on the development of the CZ-5 Chang Zheng-5 series of launch vehicle with the building of a launch vehicle production base in the northern municipality of Tianjin. This development has a total investment of 10 billion yuan and covers an area of more than one million square meters.

The base will be capable of producing 12 launch vehicles a year, and after the first phase of construction is completed in 2011, the base will be able to produce two launch vehicles.

Earlier reports point to the first launch of the CZ-5, with a maximum payload capacity of up to 25,000 kg, in 2014.

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