China launches military satellite YaoGan Weixing-10

According to the Chinese media, the new satellite is intended for
“scientific experiments, land survey, crop yield assessment, and
disaster monitoring.” As was the case for previous launches of the
YaoGan Weixing series, Western analysts believe this class of
satellites is being used for reconnaissance and military purposes.

The previous satellite in the series, YaoGan Weixing-9, was launched
March 5th from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center by a CZ-4C Chang
Zheng-4C launch vehicle, the same launch vehicle used to launch YG-10.

Tuesday’s launch of YaoGan Weixing-10 makes it three such satellites in
Earth orbit. Flying in formation this three satellites form what
appears to akin to a type of Naval Ocean Surveillance System (NOSS).

The ‘YaoGan Weixing’ designation appears to be used in a similar
fashion to that of the old Soviet ‘Cosmos’ designation, hiding the true
mission of the vehicles launched into orbit.

The first YaoGan Weixing satellite (29092 2006-015A) was launched by a
CZ-4C Chang Zheng-4C (CZ4C-1) from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center
on April 27, 2006. At the time the details about that satellite were
closely guarded, before claiming it was the first Jian Bing-5
satellite, equipped with the first space-based Synthetic Aperture Radar
(SAR).

Next up was the YaoGan Weixing-2 (31490 2007-019A) was launched on 25
May, 2007, by a CZ-2D Chang Zheng-2D (CZ2D-8) from the Jiuquan
Satellite Launch Center. Details were also restricted, though it is
claimed that the spacecraft was an electro-optical military observation
satellite, complementing the results of the YaoGan Weixing-1.

This was followed on November 12, 2007, the YaoGan Weixing-3 (32289
2007-055A) satellite was launched by a CZ-4C Chang Zheng-4C (CZ4C-2)
launch vehicle from Taiyuan. This satellite was noted as the second
Jian Bing-3 SAR satellite.

On December 1, 2008, YaoGan Weixing-4 (33446 2008-061A) – the second
electro-optical satellite on the series – was launched by a CZ-2D Chang
Zheng-2D from Jiuquan, and on December 15, 2008, YaoGan Weixing-5
(33456 2008-064A) was launched by a CZ-4B Chang Zheng-4B (CZ4B-12) from
the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center – believed to be the fourth SAR
bird on the series.

Finally, YaoGan Weixing-6 (34839 2009-021A) was launched by a CZ-2C
Chang Zheng-2C-III from Taiyuan on April 22 this year – the fifth SAR
satellite.

YaoGan Weixing-10 was launched by a CZ-4C Chang Zheng-4C launch vehicle
that is a optimized version of the CZ-4B Chang Zheng-4B using an upper
stage with restart capability and a new interstage adapter between the
first and second stages.

This launch was the 128th Chinese orbital launch, the 30th orbital
launch from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, and the first orbital
launch from Taiyuan this year. This was the sixth use of a CZ-4C Chang
Zheng-4C launch vehicle.

Situated in the Kelan County on the northwest part of the Shanxi
Province, the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center is also known by the
Wuzhai designation. It is used mainly for polar launches
(meteorological, Earth resources and scientific satellites).

The launch center is equipped with a Mission Command and Control
Center, a Technical Center and telemetry, tracking and communications
centers. There are two launch complex buildings in Taiyuan.

The first orbital launch from Taiyuan took place on September 6, 1988
when the CZ-4 Chang Zheng-4 (CZ4-1) rocket launched the first FY-1A
Feng Yun-1A (19467 1988-080A) meteorological satellite.

China plans to launch its second lunar probe, Chang’e-2, next October.
The probe will be launched by a CZ-3C Chang Zheng-3C launch vehicle
from the Xi Chang space center and before the end of the year is
planned the launch of the FY-3B Feng Yun-3B meteorological satellite.

The Chinese schedule for the rest of the year includes the launch of at
least another remote sensing bird, the launch of Chinasat-6A
communications satellite, the launch of the ST-1B Shen Tong-1B / ZX-20
(2) ZhongXing-20 (2) military communications satellite and the launch
of two more BeiDou navigation satellites.

Next year will see the launch of the TG-1 TianGong-1 space module.
TiangGong-1 is expected to accomplish the country’s first space docking
and is regarded as an essential step toward building a space station.

Weighing about 8.500 kg, TianGong-1 will be able to perform long-term
unattended operation, which will be an essential step toward building a
space station.

The unmanned Shenzhou-8 spacecraft will achieve China’s first space
docking. The docking maneuvers are going to be controlled from the
ground. Shenzhou-9 and Shenzhou-10, the two other spaceships to dock
with Tiangong-1, would carry a crew of two or three.

TG-1 TianGong-1 is going to be launched by a modified CZ-2F Chang
Zheng-2F launch vehicle, sometimes referred to as CZ-2F/G Chang
Zheng-2F/G, sporting 170 technological modifications, including 38
major refinements.

China is also advancing on the development of the CZ-5 Chang Zheng-5
series of launch vehicle with the building of a launch vehicle
production base in the northern municipality of Tianjin. This
development has a total investment of 10 billion yuan and covers an
area of more than one million square meters.

The base will be capable of producing 12 launch vehicles a year, and
after the first phase of construction is completed in 2011, the base
will be able to produce two launch vehicles.

Earlier reports point to the first launch of the CZ-5, with a maximum payload capacity of up to 25,000 kg, in 2014.