China has added to their fleet of reconnaissance satellites with the successful launch and deployment of the LKW-4 satellite. This is the fourth LKW high-resolution Earth-imaging satellite to be launch in as many months with LKW-1, 2 and 3 being launched in December 2017 and January of this year.
The Chinese-built Long March 2D launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Inner Mongolia at 07:10 GMT (02:10 EST) on March 17. Following a successful launch, the vehicle’s upper stage deployed the LKW-4 satellite into a Sun-synchronous orbit at an inclination of 97.3 degrees.
There is very little known about the LKW-4 or the previous three LKW satellites. Chinese media outlets have stated that the satellites are being used for “remote sensing exploration of land resources”. However, the secrecy around the satellites is extreme even by China’s standards giving credence to the theory that they are part of country’s military reconnaissance efforts.
Saturday’s launch was the fourth Long March 2D mission of 2018. The last deployed the Zhangheng-1 satellite and six CubeSats into orbit on February 2. The successful launch of the LKW-4 satellite was also China’s eight of 2018. With global orbital launches totalling 25 so far this year, the country has accounted for 32% of the worldwide space travel.
Image Credit: Chinese Academy of Sciences