Chinese Long March 2C launches final Shijian-11 satellite

by Rui C. Barbosa

The Chinese have launched what appears to be the final satellite of the Shijian-11 series. Shijian 11-08 was launched at 06:59UTC on October 27, 2014, using a Long March-2C launch vehicle. The launch took place from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center’s LC43/603 launch complex.

Chinese Launch:

Information about SJ-11-08 came after the launch of the previous satellite in the series, when it became known that both satellites were in parallel processing flows. It was then noted that this was the final Shijian-11 satellite.

According to the Chinese media, the Shijian-11 series are only known to be “experimental satellites”. The satellites were developed by CAST’s China Spacesat Co. Ltd.

As per usual – and using the same information from previous Shijian-11 satellites – the true mission of Shijian 11-08 was not revealed by the Chinese authorities, who noted that this would be mainly used for space science and engineering experiments.

Since its first launch, no one has been able to find the true objectives of this series of missions.

‘Shijian’ means ‘Practice’ and this breed of satellite has been used in a variety of configurations and missions for scientific research and technological experiments.

In fact, the second Chinese satellite launched on March 3, 1971 was Shijian-1, that was orbited by a Long March-1 launch vehicle from the LC2/5020 launch complex of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

Other Shijian missions followed, covering various aspects of space research, exploration and engineering.

In the case of the Shijian-11 series, some observers noted that they could be related to a constellation of operational early warning or missile tracking satellites, carrying infrared sensors. All satellites operate in typical 705 by 690 km, 98.1 degrees orbits.

That first Shijian-11 satellite (36088 2009-061A) was launched at 02:45 UTC on November 12, 2009 by the Long March-2C (Y21) from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. We had to wait almost two years to see the launch of the second satellite of the series.

The launch of ShiJian 11-03 (37730 2011-030A), strangely came out of sequence, being lofted into orbit at 04:28 UTC on July 6, 2011, once again by the Long March-2C (Y25) and also from Jiuquan.

The third satellite of the series came only 23 days after SJ-11-03. Shijian 11-02 (37765 2011-039A) was launched at 07:42 UTC on July 29, 2011 from Jiuquan by the Long March-2C (Y24) launch vehicle.

Shijian 11-04 was lost the following August 18 on a rare Long March-2C mishap, although Shijian 11-05 (39202 2013-035A) was successfully launched on July 15, 2013 also by the Long March-2C (Y23) out of Jiuquan.

Shijian 11-06 (39624 2014-014A) was launched on March 31, 2014, at 0246UTC using a Long March-2C and SJ-11-07 (40261 2014-059A) was launched on September 28, 2014, using the Long March (Y31).

The Long March-2C:

The Chang Zheng 2C (Long March 2C) is a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) launch vehicle derived from DF-5 ICBM. It can be launched from either the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center or the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, with some launched also taking place from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

2014-10-27 10_47_11-index.php (2037×3000)The launch vehicle has three configurations. The basic two stage Long March-2C and the Long March-2C/SMA and the Long March-2C/SM, using upper stages.

The rocket is a two stage hypergolic launch vehicle with a total length of 35.15 meters, a diameter of 3.35 meters and a total mass of 192,000 kg. The first stage is equipped with four YF-20A engines. Is has a length of 20.52 meters and a burn time of 122 seconds.

The second stage is equipped with one YF-22A engine, and has a length of 7.50 meters with a burn time of 130 seconds.

A typical flight profile begins with the ignition of the first stage YF-20A engines. At 10 seconds into the flight the vehicle pitches over, reorienting itself to the right launch azimuth for its mission. First stage shutdown comes two minutes into the flight followed one second later by the separation between first and second stage, and second stage ignition.

Fairing jettisoning takes place at 3 minutes and 52 seconds and second stage shutdown takes place at 5 minutes and 6 seconds into the flight. At this time the vernier engines continues to fire until 9 minutes 26 seconds after launch, propelling the vehicle into orbit. Spacecraft separation takes place three seconds later.

This launch was the 197th successful Chinese orbital launch and the 196th launch of the Long March launch vehicle family. It was also the 68th successful orbital launch from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, the 5th launch from this space center in 2014 and the 9th orbital launch for China this year.

2014-09-28 10_08_40-Shi Jian 11-07, CZ-2C, JSLC - 05_28UTC, September 28, 2014The Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, also known as the Shuang Cheng Tze launch center, was the first Chinese satellite launch center.

The site includes a Technical Center, two Launch Complexes, Mission Command and Control Center, Launch Control Center, propellant fueling 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.

The 603 Launch Platform for unmanned satellite launches is part of the Launch Complex 43 that also includes the 912 Launch Pad for the manned program. Apart of the launch pads, the launch complex has a technical center where take place the preparations of the launch vehicle and spacecraft.

The technical center is composed of the launch vehicle processing and vertical assembly building, spacecraft processing buildings, solid rocket motor processing building, buildings for liquid-propellant storage and processing and the launch control center.

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