Over 12 hours after liftoff, the fate of a classified satellite deployed from southwest China remained unknown. At roughly 4:20 a.m. Eastern Monday, the Long March 3B rocket deployed from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center, which marks second orbital deployment of the day of China.
The launch was predicted after the disclosure of airspace closure alerts and footage shared on Chinese social media immediately after liftoff appeared to confirm it. However, neither the CASC (China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation), the country’s major space contractor, nor official media have confirmed the launch’s success or even failure. Successes and failures of Chinese launches are usually published quickly after confirmation. The payload of this mission is also unclear. Sightings of an item over the New South Wales, Australia, were most likely a burn of the upper stage of the Long March 3B, showing that the launch was still on track.
The payload then reached a transfer orbit of 177 x 40,105 kilometers inclined by the 51 degrees for the targeted inclined geosynchronous orbit, according to data from the US Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (SPCS). According to a social media post which was quickly deleted, a second object classified from the launch suggests that the payload—probably the experimental Shiyan-10 satellite—successfully detached from rocket’s upper stage.
It is now uncertain if the satellite is safe or if it is experiencing a problem, such as an inability to release its solar arrays, due to a lack of information from the authorities. This payload launched is going to need to utilize its own propulsion, increasing its perigee, or closest point to Earth in the orbit to enter its target orbit. If the essential engine burn occurs in the following few days, the space tracking data will indicate an operational satellite.
After an incident following the launch in August 2019, ChinaSat-18 (Zhongxing-18) is still in geosynchronous transfer orbit. According to a claim filed with the insurance company, the satellite lost power completely.
At 2:19 a.m. Eastern, China launched its first satellite of the day from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center located in the Gobi Desert. The Kuaizhou-1A solid rocket, created by the state-possessed CASIC (China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation) and managed by its spinoff Expace, successfully returned to flight on this mission.
Chang Guang Satellite Technology Co. Ltd.’s Jilin-1 Gaofen (“high resolution”) 02D Earth observation satellite was successfully launched into the 532 x 545-kilometer orbit inclined at 97.5 degrees by the 20-meter-long four-stage rocket. Similar to the earlier Jilin-1 Gaofen 02 series spacecraft, the satellite will have an optical resolution of more than 0.75 meter as well as a multi-spectral resolution of 3 meters.
The Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics, and Physics (CIOMP), that is part of Chinese Academy of Sciences, the nation’s national academy for the natural sciences, is the commercial spinoff of CIOMP.