China successfully launched their fifth orbital mission of 2018 deploying three small Yaogan-30-04 remote sensing satellites and an initially unidentified nanosat. Approximately 40 minutes after the launch, Chinese aerospace groups confirmed all four satellites had successfully reached their designated orbits.
More staggeringly close-up footage of China's Long March 2C (hydrazine+N2O4) rocket launch early today with 3x Yaogan reconnaissance sats
— Andrew Jones (@AJ_FI) January 25, 2018
The four small satellites were launched aboard a Long March 2C launch vehicle. The Long March 2C lifted off from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in Sichuan Province at 05:39 GMT (13:39 local time – GMT+8) on Jan 25. The launch was the 45th Long March 2C mission with 44 completed successfully.
The three Yaogan-30-04 satellites launched Monday will join nine others deployed aboard three Long March 2C missions launched in 2017. The satellites were developed by Microsatellite Innovation Institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). Chinese news outlets have reported that the Yaogan-30-04 satellites will be used for electromagnetic environment monitoring and related technical tests. Most analysts in the West, however, believe that the satellites are part China’s People’s Liberation Army’s reconnaissance efforts. If they are, a twelve satellite constellation could potentially give China high revisit coverage of areas of strategic importance.
Although initially unidentified, it has now been revealed that the fourth passenger aboard the Long March 2C is designated 微纳-1A, or NanoSat-1A. No further details have been provided regarding the origins or function of the nanosat.
This morning’s launch was the 265th launch of a Long March vehicle and the fifth of the year. The last saw a rare launch of the Long March 11 vehicle. The vehicle had only been launched twice in the past in September 2015 and November 2016. The launch deployed five satellites for Chinese providers and one CubeSat for a Canadian communications company into orbit.