The Long March 3B carrier rocket successfully launched the Gaofen 13 Satellite

BEIJING (China Aerospace Science and Technology Group PR) — At 0:57 on October 12, at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, the Long March 3B carrier rocket lifted the Gaofen 13 satellite into the sky. The satellite then entered the scheduled orbit, and the launch mission was a complete success.

The Gaofen 13 satellite was developed by the Fifth Academy of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. It is a high-orbit optical remote sensing satellite. It is mainly used for land surveys, crop yield estimation, environmental governance, weather warning and forecasting, and comprehensive disaster prevention and mitigation. Provide information services for the construction of the national economy.

The Long March 3B carrier rocket for this launch mission was developed by the Fifth Academy of Aerospace Science and Technology Group. The rocket launch test team has done a lot of work in improving the reliability of the rocket, de-tasking products, and optimizing the pre-launch preparation process.

For this mission, the Long March 3B carrier rocket has carried out the most technological state change in recent years — 16 first-flight technologies have been updated, mainly involving satellite fairings, on-arrow pressurized transport systems, and three-stage rocket igniter, laser inertial group data, etc.

This launch is the 349th launch of the Long March series of carrier rockets.

China Completes Beidou Satellite Navigation System

Note: As of June 28, 2019. Adapted from Kazuhiro Kida and Shinichi Hashimoto, “China’s Version of GPS Now Has More Satellites than US Original,” Nikkei Asian Review, August 19, 2019.

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

China completed its Beidou satellite navigation system with a launch last week, fully standing up a rival to the American Global Positioning System (GPS), Europe’s Galileo constellation, and Russia’s GLONASS system and strengthening the nation as a space power.

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Schedule for Upcoming Launches

Electron rocket lifts off on Jan. 31, 2020. (Credit: Rocket Lab)

The week ahead features launches by Rocket Lab and SpaceX, Vega’s first rideshare mission, two Chinese launches, and a Japanese sounding rocket flight.

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China Launches 4 Satellites on 2 Boosters

While the United States was focused last week on its first domestic flight of astronauts to orbit in 9 years, China was busy with a pair of launches that placed four satellites into space.

A Long March 11 booster launched the Xinjishu Shiyan-G and Xinjishu Shiyan-H technology test satellites from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on Friday, May 29.

The Xinjishu Shiyan-G satellite was developed by the Shanghai Institute of Microsatellite Innovation, which is part of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The National University of Defence Technology developed the Xinjishu Shiyan-H satellite.

The satellites will test new Earth observation technology and inter-satellite communications.

On Sunday, a Long March 2D rocket launched the Gaofen-9 (02) remote sensing satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Inner Mongolia.

The microwave spacecraft is the latest in a series of high-definition Earth observation satellites. Gaofen-9 (02) will be used for a variety of civilian purposes ranging from land use and urban planning to crop estimation and disaster prevention.

The Long March 2D booster carried the HEAD-4 technology and communications satellite as a secondary payload. The spacecraft is owned by HEAD Aerospace Tech Co. Ltd. of Beijing.

China Suffers Second Launch Failure of 2020

A Chinese Long March 3B booster failed after launch on Thursday, destroying an Indonesian communications satellite and providing a spectacular nighttime light show for residents of Guam as debris burned up in the atmosphere.

China’s Xinhua news agency said the Long March 3B’s third stage malfunctioned after launch from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center.

The booster was carrying the Palapa-N1 geosynchronous communications satellite. The spacecraft was owned by Palapa Satelit Nusantara Sejahtera, which is a joint venture of Pasifik Satelit Nusantara and Indosat Ooredoo.

Palapa-N1, also known as Nusantara Dua, would have provided C-band and Ku-band broadcast and broadband services for Indonesia and neighboring regions. The China Academy of Space Technology built the spacecraft based on its DFH-4 platform.

Debris from the launch reentered the atmosphere near Guam. Officials said the debris posed no threat to the U.S. territory.

It was China’s second launch failure in less than a month. On March 16, the maiden launch of the Long March 7A rocket went awry, destroying a classified government satellite. Chinese officials have not announced the cause of the failure.

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.