Featured image credit: Xinhua
Lift Off Time
September 26, 2022 – 13:38 UTC | 21:38 BJT
Yaogan 36, three Chinese reconnaissance satellites
(What rocket company launched it?)
China Aerospace Science Corporation (CASC)
(Who paid for this?)
Chinese Ministry of National Defense
Long March 2D
LC-3, Xichang Satellite Launch Center, China
Unknown, a maximum of 1,300 kg (2,900 lbs) based on orbital parameters
Where did the satellites go?
499 x 486 km low-Earth Orbit at 34.99º
Did they attempt to recover the first stage?
No, first stage recovery is not a capability of the Long March 2D
Where did the first stage land?
It crashed on land in North-West China
Did they attempt to recover the fairings?
No, fairing recovery is not a capability of the Long March 2D
Were the fairings new?
This was the:
– 66th launch of a Long March 2D
– 124th orbital launch attempt of 2022
Where to watch
How Did It Go?
The China Aerospace Science Corporation successfully launched three Yaogan 36 reconnaissance satellites into a ~500 km circular low-Earth orbit of 34.99 degrees. The trio of satellites are thought to be equipped with solar sails, which the CASC has been testing to expedite the deorbiting of the spacecraft. The three satellites were successfully placed in orbit by the Long March 2D rocket, which launched from Xichang Satellite Launch Center, in China.
As with most reconnaissance satellites, very few specifics of the actual satellites are known. However, the Chinese government has released some information about the Yaogan constellation. Currently, there are ~100 Yaogan satellites in a variety of orbits, ranging from 35° to 100° and orbital altitudes from 480 km circular orbits to 1,200 km eccentric orbits.
The Yaogan constellation is a Chinese reconnaissance constellation. According to Chinese media, the satellites are used for scientific experimentation, surveying land, assessing crop yields, and monitoring disasters. However, the satellites are likely also used for reconnaissance operations by the Chinese Ministry of Defense.
It is thought that the Yaogan 36 satellites are equipped with a solar sail — a large piece of thin foil that is deployed in orbit. By angeling the sail, the satellite is able to use the solar wind to move around, including getting velocity changes. China has been using this technology to demonstrate quicker deorbits of some satellites.
What Is The Long March 2D?
The Long March 2D (also known as the Chang Zheng 2D, CZ-2D, and LM-2D), is a two-stage rocket, predominantly used for launching satellites to low-Earth orbit (LEO) and sun-synchronous-orbit (SSO). The Long March 2D is a two-stage version of the Long March 4, and is the smallest of all the active Long March rockets.
The rocket’s maiden flight was on August 9, 1992, and it has since had a near-perfect launch history, with the only incident being a partial failure on December 28, 2016.
The first stage is 27.91 m in length and uses oneYF-21C engines. YF-21C is the name given to the engine when it is part of a module comprised of four YF-20C engines, which burn dinitrogen tetroxide (N2O4) and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) in a gas generator cycle. Each engine produces 731 kN of thrust at sea level, with a specific impulse (ISP) of 259 seconds. In a vacuum, this increases to 816 kN of thrust with an ISP of 289 seconds due to the larger pressure difference between the MCC and environment.
The second stage is 10.9 m in length and uses a single YF-24C engine; similarly to the first stage engines, the YF-24C burns dinitrogen tetroxide (N2O4) and unsymmetrical dimethylhydrazine (UDMH) in a gas generator cycle. The name YF-24C means it is part of a module comprising a YF-22 engine and a YF-23 vernier engine for attitude control.