China launches a new spy satellite into space for 'disaster prevention'

It was the country's 35th successful rocket launch this year.
Chris Young
A Long March 4C rocket at launch.
A Long March 4C rocket at launch.

Source: CNSA 

China's space agency, the China National Space Administration (CNSA) continues its impressive launch cadence for this year with its latest launch. The agency launched a mystery spy satellite that may gather military intelligence for the country, a report from reveals.

The satellite, called Yaogan 33, launched atop China's Long March 4C rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert at 7:44 pm (23:44 GMT) on Friday, September 2.

The launch of Yaogan 33 aboard the Long March 4C rocket was the country's 35th successful launch this year and the 435th flight for the Long March series carrier rocket.

China launches a new spy satellite

Very little is known about Yaogan 33, other than the fact it is one of a new classified series of remote sensing satellites. Chinese state-run outlet CGTN wrote that the satellite will be used for "science experiments, census of national land resources, crop yield estimation and disaster prevention."

The U.S. Space Force tracked the launch and picked up two new objects in orbit: Yaogan 33 in a 428 by 423 mile (688 by 680 kilometers) near-polar orbit and the upper stage of the Long March 4C orbiting at an altitude of 306 miles (492 km).

According to NASA Spaceflight, the previous satellite in China's 33 series, Yaogan 33 (01), is likely to be a space-based synthetic aperture radar (SAR) system, meaning it can image through clouds and at nighttime. Yaogan 33 (01) launched in late 2020, and it's in a similar orbit to Yaogan 33 (02).

China aims for 50 launches this year

As per SpaceNews, the first launch attempt of a Yaogan 33 satellite ended in failure in 2019, with smoke trails spotted after the launch suggesting an anomaly had occurred. It was the country's first launch failure since July 2017, when the second Long March 5 suffered a first-stage issue at launch.

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China aims to conduct a record 50 launches for the country this year. As of September 5, the U.S. has launched 50 times. In July, one of China's launches was met with criticism on the world stage due to the uncontrolled re-entry of the Long March 5B 21-ton rocket core stage that lifted part of its Tiangong space station into orbit.

China aims to launch the space station's final module into orbit later this year in October, meaning it will likely face more criticism for what has been dubbed an "unacceptable" practice by Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. Chinese officials hit back, stating that criticism was propaganda against the country. Since 1990, the U.S. hasn't allowed any object weighing over 10 tons to make an uncontrolled re-entry into the Earth's atmosphere for the safety of people and property on Earth.

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