After two launch mishaps that casted a shadow on the launch plans for 2017, China conducted a secretive launch from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Sichuan province on Friday. An unidentified payload – later revealed to be Yaogan-30 01 – was launched by the Long March-2C (Y29) at 04:20 UTC from the LC3 Launch Complex.
The launch comes after the loss of the communications satellite Shijian-18 on the second launch of the heavy Long March-5 rocket on July 2, along with the underperformance of the third stage of the Long March-3B/G2 launch vehicle that left the Zhongxing-9A (Chinasat-9A) in a wrong orbit.
Eventually, after utilizing its own propulsion system, the Chinasat-9A managed to reach its operational geostationary orbit.
Nothing was known about this latest launch ahead of lift off, other than the launch vehicle and the launch site. However, it was hoped the spacecraft it was carrying will be listed by Chinese State Media later on Friday.
And that was later forthcoming, with footage showing this was three satellites on the Yaogan-30 01 mission, with the aim of conducting electromagnetic detection and related technical tests.
The launch vehicle in question was the Chang Zheng 2C (Long March 2C), 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.
The previous orbital launch from Xichang using a Long March-2C launch vehicle took place on November 18, 2004, when the Long March-2C (Y15) orbited the Shiyan-2 Earth observation satellite.
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.
The Xichang Satellite Launch Centre is situated in the Sichuan Province, south-western China and is the country’s launch site for geosynchronous orbital launches.
Equipped with two launch pads (LC2 and LC3), the centre has a dedicated railway and highway lead directly to the launch site. The Command and Control Centre is located seven kilometers south-west of the launch pad, providing flight and safety control during launch rehearsal and launch.
Downrange Tracking and Control stations of the launch center are located in Xichang City and Yibin City of Sichuan Province, and Guiyang City of Guizhou Province. Each of them houses tracking and measurement equipment for the powered phase of a launch vehicle flight.
Other facilities on the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre are the Launch Control Centre, propellant fueling systems, communications systems for launch command, telephone and data communications for users, and support equipment for meteorological monitoring and forecasting.
During 1993-1994 Xichang underwent extensive modernization and expansion, in part due to the requirements of the CZ-3 launcher family and in part to meet commercial customer needs.
The first launch from Xichang took place at 12:25UTC on January 29, 1984, when the Long March (Y1) was launched the Shiyan Weixing (14670 1984-008A) communications satellite into orbit.