Wed. May 22nd, 2024

China launches second Yaogan-42 reconnaissance satellite

Emily Hudson By Emily Hudson May18,2024

HELSINKI — China launched its second Yaogan-42 reconnaissance satellite over the weekend, weeks after sending the first such satellite into a similar orbit.

A Long March 2D rocket lifted off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 7:45 p.m. Eastern (2334 UTC) April 20. The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) announced launch success within the hour. 

CASC’s statement revealed the previously undisclosed payload to be the second batch of Yaogan-42 satellites. Yaogan translates to “remote sensing”.

Neither CASC nor Chinese state media provided any details regarding the satellites. These statements omitted usual general descriptions of Yaogan satellites. 

Some Yaogan satellites are described as being for purposes including land survey, crop yield estimation, environmental management, meteorological warning and forecasting, and disaster prevention and reduction. Uses of others include “electromagnetic environment detection and technical tests.”

Yaogan-42 (02) has been tracked by  U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Defense Squadron (SDS) in a 491 by 502 kilometer orbit inclined by 35 degrees. This is similar to the first Yaogan-42 satellite, launched April 2, but with an angular separation of 142 degrees.

Outside observers assess Yaogan series satellites to be designated for military and civilian purposes.The various series of Yaogan satellites are understood to include optical imaging, synthetic aperture radar (SAR) and electronic intelligence (ELINT) satellites. 

This combination provides high-resolution imagery and all-weather and all-day and night imagery, along with the collection of electronic signals from radar, communication systems and other electronic devices, with coverage of both land and sea. 

U.S. concerns over Chinese reconnaissance satellites

U.S. Officials have recently voiced concern over China’s buildup of reconnaissance satellites. Chief Master Sgt. Ron Lerch, of the Space Systems Command’s intelligence directorate, warned in January that China’s reconnaissance spacecraft are providing the People’s Liberation Army unprecedented eyes in space to track U.S. and allies’ activities in Asia-Pacific and other hotspots. 

Notable additions to the series include Yaogan-41 to geosynchronous orbit in late 2023. That satellite launched on a Long March 5, China’s largest operational rocket. The mission used a new, elongated 18.5-meter-long, 5.2-meter-diameter payload fairing. Meanwhile, China launched Ludi Tance-4, thought to be the world’s first geosynchronous orbit SAR satellite, in August last year.

“Paired with data from other Chinese surveillance satellites, Yaogan-41 could provide China an unprecedented ability to identify and track car-sized objects throughout the entire Indo-Pacific region and put at risk numerous U.S. and allied naval and air assets operating in the region,” Clayton Swope, a former U.S. intelligence official and now a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said in January.

Saturday’s launch was China’s 17th orbital mission of 2024. The country is aiming to launch around 100 times across 2024. Around 70 will be conducted by CASC, with China’s commercial launch service providers planning around 30 launches. 

CASC will launch two major missions in the next couple of weeks. The Shenzhou-18 human spaceflight mission to the Tiangong space station is due to launch April 25 from Jiuquan, northwest China. The first-ever lunar far side sample return mission, Chang’e-6, is scheduled to launch May 3 from Wenchang.

Emily Hudson

By Emily Hudson

Emily is a talented author who has published several bestselling novels in the mystery genre. With a knack for creating gripping plotlines and intriguing characters, Emily's works have captivated readers worldwide.

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2 thoughts on “China launches second Yaogan-42 reconnaissance satellite”
  1. China’s launch of the second Yaogan-42 reconnaissance satellite is a significant development. It will undoubtedly enhance both military and civilian capabilities, considering the versatile applications these satellites are known for. Exciting times ahead for China’s space program!

  2. Isn’t it concerning that the payload details of the Yaogan-42 satellites remain undisclosed by CASC and Chinese state media? What could be the possible reasons for this lack of transparency?

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