China continues build up of Yaogan-30 constellation

by Rui C. Barbosa

The Chinese conducted another secretive launch from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, Sichuan province, on Monday. The Yaogan Weixing-30-03 mission – involving three satellites – was launched by a Long March-2C launch vehicle at 19:44 UTC from the LC3 Launch Complex.

As is usual for the Chinese media, this mission once again classed as involving new remote sensing birds that will be used to “conduct electromagnetic probes and other experiments.”

As was the case in previous launches of the Yaogan Weixing series, analysts believe this class of satellites is used for military purposes.

Working with the former Soviet Union (and in a smaller scale with Russia) ‘Cosmos’ designation, the ‘Yaogan’ name is used to hide the true military nature of the vehicles orbited.

The launch of triplets mission is not new for China. Previously there were various missions with three satellites launch on a singular carrier rocket in missions similar to the Naval Ocean Surveillance System (NOSS) operated by the United States.

The missions were carried out by the Yaogan 9, 16, 17, 20, 25 triplet satellites launched by Long March-4C launch vehicles from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. It is believed that there are the Jianbing-8 military satellites operating in orbits with 1100 x 1100km, 63°.

Chinese TV coverage of the deployment

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.

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.

Long March 2C – Photo by Chinese State Media,

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. It 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 center 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.

The control room for this launch – via Chinese TV

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 fuelling 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 12:25 UTC on January 29, 1984, when the Long March (Y1) was launched the Shiyan Weixing (14670 1984-008A) communications satellite into orbit.

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