China launches military satellite YaoGan Weixing-10

According to the Chinese media, the new satellite is intended for“scientific experiments, land survey, crop yield assessment, anddisaster monitoring.” As was the case for previous launches of theYaoGan Weixing series, Western analysts believe this class ofsatellites is being used for reconnaissance and military purposes.

The previous satellite in the series, YaoGan Weixing-9, was launchedMarch 5th from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center by a CZ-4C ChangZheng-4C launch vehicle, the same launch vehicle used to launch YG-10.

Tuesday’s launch of YaoGan Weixing-10 makes it three such satellites inEarth orbit. Flying in formation this three satellites form whatappears to akin to a type of Naval Ocean Surveillance System (NOSS).

The ‘YaoGan Weixing’ designation appears to be used in a similarfashion to that of the old Soviet ‘Cosmos’ designation, hiding the truemission of the vehicles launched into orbit.

The first YaoGan Weixing satellite (29092 2006-015A) was launched by aCZ-4C Chang Zheng-4C (CZ4C-1) from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centeron April 27, 2006. At the time the details about that satellite wereclosely guarded, before claiming it was the first Jian Bing-5satellite, equipped with the first space-based Synthetic Aperture Radar(SAR).

Next up was the YaoGan Weixing-2 (31490 2007-019A) was launched on 25May, 2007, by a CZ-2D Chang Zheng-2D (CZ2D-8) from the JiuquanSatellite Launch Center. Details were also restricted, though it isclaimed that the spacecraft was an electro-optical military observationsatellite, complementing the results of the YaoGan Weixing-1.

This was followed on November 12, 2007, the YaoGan Weixing-3 (322892007-055A) satellite was launched by a CZ-4C Chang Zheng-4C (CZ4C-2)launch vehicle from Taiyuan. This satellite was noted as the secondJian Bing-3 SAR satellite.

On December 1, 2008, YaoGan Weixing-4 (33446 2008-061A) – the secondelectro-optical satellite on the series – was launched by a CZ-2D ChangZheng-2D from Jiuquan, and on December 15, 2008, YaoGan Weixing-5(33456 2008-064A) was launched by a CZ-4B Chang Zheng-4B (CZ4B-12) fromthe Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center – believed to be the fourth SARbird on the series.

Finally, YaoGan Weixing-6 (34839 2009-021A) was launched by a CZ-2CChang Zheng-2C-III from Taiyuan on April 22 this year – the fifth SARsatellite.

YaoGan Weixing-10 was launched by a CZ-4C Chang Zheng-4C launch vehiclethat is a optimized version of the CZ-4B Chang Zheng-4B using an upperstage with restart capability and a new interstage adapter between thefirst and second stages.

This launch was the 128th Chinese orbital launch, the 30th orbitallaunch from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, and the first orbitallaunch from Taiyuan this year. This was the sixth use of a CZ-4C ChangZheng-4C launch vehicle.

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

The launch center is equipped with a Mission Command and ControlCenter, a Technical Center and telemetry, tracking and communicationscenters. There are two launch complex buildings in Taiyuan.

The first orbital launch from Taiyuan took place on September 6, 1988when the CZ-4 Chang Zheng-4 (CZ4-1) rocket launched the first FY-1AFeng Yun-1A (19467 1988-080A) meteorological satellite.

China plans to launch its second lunar probe, Chang’e-2, next October.The probe will be launched by a CZ-3C Chang Zheng-3C launch vehiclefrom the Xi Chang space center and before the end of the year isplanned the launch of the FY-3B Feng Yun-3B meteorological satellite.

The Chinese schedule for the rest of the year includes the launch of atleast another remote sensing bird, the launch of Chinasat-6Acommunications satellite, the launch of the ST-1B Shen Tong-1B / ZX-20(2) ZhongXing-20 (2) military communications satellite and the launchof two more BeiDou navigation satellites.

Next year will see the launch of the TG-1 TianGong-1 space module.TiangGong-1 is expected to accomplish the country’s first space dockingand is regarded as an essential step toward building a space station.

Weighing about 8.500 kg, TianGong-1 will be able to perform long-termunattended operation, which will be an essential step toward building aspace station.

The unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft will achieve China’s first spacedocking. The docking maneuvers are going to be controlled from theground. Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10, the two other spaceships to dockwith Tiangong-1, would carry a crew of two or three.

TG-1 TianGong-1 is going to be launched by a modified CZ-2F ChangZheng-2F launch vehicle, sometimes referred to as CZ-2F/G ChangZheng-2F/G, sporting 170 technological modifications, including 38major refinements.

China is also advancing on the development of the CZ-5 Chang Zheng-5series of launch vehicle with the building of a launch vehicleproduction base in the northern municipality of Tianjin. Thisdevelopment has a total investment of 10 billion yuan and covers anarea of more than one million square meters.

The base will be capable of producing 12 launch vehicles a year, andafter the first phase of construction is completed in 2011, the basewill be able to produce two launch vehicles.

Earlier reports point to the first launch of the CZ-5, with a maximum payload capacity of up to 25,000 kg, in 2014.

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