Long March 2C Booster Launches Three Reconnaissance Satellites

China successfully launched three Yaogan Weixing-30 military surveillance satellites on Tuesday.

A Long March 2C booster launched the three spacecraft from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 0304 UTC.

The Xinhua news agency said the satellites will be used for “electromagnetic environment detection and related technical tests.”

The Chinese Academy of Sciences Microsatellite Innovation Research Institute developed the satellites.

Tuesday’s mission was the 329th launch of the Long March booster series.

Upcoming Launches to Close Out March

Astra Space 1 of 3 rocket on the launch pad in Alaska. (Credit: DARPA webcast)

Here’s quick look at the launches scheduled for the rest of March. Information from Spaceflightnow.com’s launch schedule.

A SpaceX Falcon 9 launch scheduled for March 30 is listed. However, unofficial reports say it has been delayed indefinitely due to travel restrictions imposed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The booster will launch the SAOCOM 1B Earth observation satellite for Argentine.

What the months ahead hold in terms of launch is uncertain. Europe has suspended flights out of its launch base in French Guiana. Whether other spaceports are closed remains to be seen. China appears to have weathered the worst of the virus.

I would expect crew and cargo flights to the International Space Station (ISS) to continue. The first crewed flight of SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft to ISS is scheduled for mid- to late May. It’s difficult to say whether that schedule will hold.

March 23/24

Launch Vehicle: Long March 2C
Payloads: 3 Yaogan 30-06 military surveillance satellites
Launch Time: Approximately 11:40 p.m. EDT on 23rd (0340 GMT on 24th)
Launch Site: Xichang, China

UPDATE: Launch successful.

March 24

Launch Vehicle: Astra Rocket 3.0 “1 of 3”
Payloads: TBA
Launch Window: TBA
Launch Site: Pacific Spaceport Complex, Alaska

UPDATE: Media report of an “anomaly” during a dress rehearsal on Monday.. Extend of anomaly and new schedule uncertain. Doesn’t sound like they’re launching on Tuesday. More details here: https://kmxt.org/2020/03/anomaly-at-pacific-spaceport-complex-launch-rehearsal-no-injuries-as-a-result/

March 26

Launch Vehicle: Atlas V
Payload: AEHF 6 military communications satellite
Launch Window: 2:57-4:57 p.m. EDT (1857-2057 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.ulalaunch.com

March 29

Launch Vehicle: Electron “Don’t Stop Me Now”
Payloads: Multiple CubeSats
Launch Window: 12:43-2:33 a.m. EDT (0443-0633 GMT)
Launch Site: Mahia Peninsula, New Zealand
Webcast: www.rocketlabusa.com/

UPDATE: Rocket Lab has suspended preparations on this launch due to the coronavirus.

March 30
(Possibly Postponed)

Launch Vehicle: Falcon 9
Payload: SAOCOM 1B Earth observation satellite
Launch Time: 7:21 p.m. EDT (2321 GMT)
Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla.
Webcast: www.spacex.com

China Launches Two Beidou Navigation Satellites

China successfully launched two satellites for the Beidou Navigation Satellite System (BDS) from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on Monday afternoon Beijing time, the Xinhua news agency reported.

The launch means all the 24 medium earth orbit (MEO) satellites of the BDS-3 have been successfully sent into space, and the deployment of the core BDS-3 constellation system has been completed, according to Yang Changfeng, chief designer of the BDS.

“BDS now has the full capacity for global service. It will be able to provide excellent navigation service to global users,” Yang said.

China started to build the BDS-3 system in 2009. The system, independently constructed and operated by China, consists of three geostationary orbit satellites, three inclined geosynchronous orbit satellites and 24 MEO satellites.

A Long March-3A booster launched the two satellites into orbit.

China Launches Weather and Navigation Satellites

China has launched a weather and two navigation satellites over the last several days.

A Long March 2D rocket lifted off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert carrying the Yunhai-1 (02) meteorological satellite on Wednesday.

Yunhai-1 (02) was built by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology.

On Sunday, China launched a pair of satellites for its Beidou navigation system.

A Long March 3B booster placed the Beidou-47 and Beidou-48 spacecraft into medium Earth orbit after lifting off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province.