China launched the fourth group of triplet satellites for the Chuangxin-5 (CX-5) constellation. Launched under the name Yaogan Weixing-30 Group-4, the three satellites were orbited by a Long March-2C launch vehicle from the LC3 Launch Complex of the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. Launch took place at 05:39 UTC.
Like the previous missions on the series, this mission is 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, in particular forming a high-revisit smallsat constellation for signal intelligence missions or for imaging activities.
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.
Previous missions on the CX-5 series were the Yaogan Weixing-30 Group-1 launched on September 29, 2017. On this mission, the Long March (Y29) launch vehicle orbited the Chuangxin-5 (1) to Chuangxin-5 (3) satellites. The three satellites were injected on a 600 km altitude orbit with an inclination of 35.00 degrees and are now spaced by 120° in their orbit.
The second mission on the series, Yaogan Weixing-30 Group-2, was launched on November 24, 2017. The Long March (Y33) launch vehicle orbited the Chuangxin-5 (4) to Chuangxin-5 (6) satellites on similar orbits as the Group-1 satellites but on an orbital plane 119° west of the first satellites.
The Yaogan Weixing-30 Group-3 with the satellites Chuangxin-5 (7) to Chuangxin-5 (9), was launched on December 25, 2017, by the Long March-2C (Y34) launch vehicle. Also orbiting at 600 km altitude with an inclination of 35.00º, the satellites were located on an orbital plane 120° east of the first group.
The now launched Yaogan Weixing-30 Group-4 is composed by the satellites Chuangxin-5 (10), Chuangxing-5 (11) and Chuangxin-5 (12).
The Chuangxing-5 satellites were developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences Small Satellite Center.
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°.
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 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. 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.
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.