China return Long March 2C to flight with YaoGan Weixing-13 launch

by Rui C. Barbosa

China has launched a new remote sensing satellite on Tuesday, with the YaoGan Weixing-13 satellite lofted into orbit from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. The launch – which took place at 18:50 UTC – also marks the return to flight of the Long March 2C launch vehicle, following the August 18 launch failure that doomed the SJ-11 ShiJian 11-04 satellite.

Chinese Launch:

This launch comes 18 days after the launch of the previous satellite in the series, the YG-12 YaoGan Weixing-12, which was launched on November 11.

Once again the official Chinese media refer the new satellite as a new remote sensing bird that will be used for “scientific experiments, land survey, crop yield assessment, and disaster monitoring.”

However, as was the case in the last launches of the YaoGan Weixing series, western analysts believe this class of satellites is being used for military purposes.

Analysts also believe that the YG-13 YaoGan Weixing-13 is a new 2nd generation SAR satellite developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation Shanghai Academy, and equipped with a new SAR radar capable of 1.5 meter spatial resolution.

The YG-13 will probably substitute the YG-6 satellite launched on April 22, 2009 from Taiyuan by a Chang Zheng-2C (Long March 2C) rocket. Other second generation radar satellites were the YaoGan Weixing-8, launched on launched on December 15, 2009, and the YaoGan Weixing-10, launched on August 9, 2010.

This was the 152nd successful Chinese orbital launch, the 152nd launch of a Chang Zheng launch vehicle, the 35th successful orbital launch from Taiyuan and the 15th successful orbital Chinese launch in 2011, equaling the Chinese annual launch record of 2010, and the 3rd from Taiyuan this year.

The 2010 record is expected to be broken within days, as China ups the pace on their launch campaign.

The CZ-2C Chang Zheng-2C launch vehicle:

The CZ-2C Chang Zheng (Long March 2C) a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) launch vehicle derived from DF-5 ICBM.

The rocket is a two stage hypergolic launch vehicle with a total length of 35.17 meters, a diameter of 3.35 meters and a total mass of 192,000 kg. The rocket is capable of launch a 2,400 kg cargo to a LEO.

The first stage is equipped with a cluster of four YF-20A engines (YF-21), having a length of 23.72 meters, a gross mass of 151,000 kg (empty mass of 8,600 kg) and a burn time of 130 seconds.

The second stage is equipped with a cluster of one YF-22A engine with fixed nozzles and a swiveling venier motor consisting of four YF-23 chambers motors (the YF-24), and has a length of 8.71 meters, a gross mass of 38,200 kg (empty mass of 3,200 kg) with a burn time of 112 seconds (main engine) and 287 second (vernier).

The Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center:

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

The center is at a height of 1400-1900m above sea level, and is surrounded by mountains to the east, south and north, with the Yellow River to its west. The annual average temperature is 4-10 degrees C, with maximum of 28 degrees C in summer and minimum of -39 degrees C in winter.

TSLC is suitable for launching a range of satellites, especially for low earth and sun-synchronous orbit missions. The center has state-of-the-art facilities for launch vehicle and spacecraft testing, preparation, launch and in-flight tracking and safety control, as well as for orbit predictions.

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