China has launched their 27th orbital mission of 2018 deploying a pair of Yaogan reconnaissance satellites into orbit. This morning’s launch was also the first to utilise a Long March 2C with its upgraded Yuanzheng-1S upper stage.
The Long March 2C lifted off into perfectly blue skies from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in the Gobi Desert at 02:43 UTC (10:43 local time). A little over 40 minutes later, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), China’s main space programme contractor, confirmed the launch had been successful.
The nature and function of the payloads aboard both reconnaissance satellites are classified. However, Chinese news outlets have suggested that they will likely be used for electromagnetic environment surveys and related scientific studies.
Long March 2C upgrade
This morning’s launch from Jiuquan was the first to utilise a new Long March 2C upper stage, the Yuanzheng-1S (YZ-1S). According to the stage’s chief designer, Cui Zhaoyun, the YZ-1S is a simplified version of the Yuanzheng-1. It has been designed primarily to launch commercial payloads and is capable of multiple restarts enabling it to deploy payloads into different orbits.
With the upgraded YZ-1S, the Long March 2C is now capable of deploying up to 2 tonnes into a 700-kilometre Sun-synchronous orbit. This is an increase of 0.8 tonnes, a significant gain.