China’s Long March 2D rocket launches classified remote sensing satellite

Early on December 10, 2023 (Chinese time) China successfully launched a classified remote sensing satellite, its Long March 2D rocket lifting off from its Xichang spaceport in the south of China.

The state-run Chinese press released almost no information. Nor did it say where within China the lower stages of the rocket, using toxic hypergolic fuels, crashed.

As expected, China’s launch pace in December has picked up, as it has routinely in recent years. The leaders in the 2023 launch race:

91 SpaceX
58 China
16 Russia
7 Rocket Lab
7 India

American private enterprise still leads China in successful launches, 103 to 58, and the entire world combined 103 to 92. SpaceX by itself now trails the rest of the world (excluding other American companies), 91 to 92, though it plans two launches on December 10th.

China launches classified satellite

China today used its Long March 2D rocket to launch what it described as “a technology experiment satellite for satellite internet technologies”, the rocket lifting off from its Xichang spaceport in the southwest of China.

No other information was released. While the satellite could be a test satellite for a constellation comparable to Starlink, the lack of information suggests otherwise.

No word also on whether the rocket’s first stage, using toxic hypergolic fuels, landed near habitable areas. The drop zone was over heavily populated areas in China.

Furthermore, China’s Kuaizhou-1 rocket had also been expected to launch today from Xichang in the wee hours of the morning, also carrying a classified payload. No word yet on whether that launch occurred, was scrubbed, or was simply the Long March 2D launch, the name of the rocket misunderstood prior to launch because of China’s secrecy.

Putting that unknown launch aside, here are the present leaders in the 2023 launch race:

86 SpaceX
53 China
14 Russia
7 Rocket Lab
7 India

American private enterprise still leads China 98 to 53 in successful launches, and the entire world combined 98 to 83. SpaceX by itself still leads the rest of the world (excluding American companies) 86 to 83.

China launches classified satellite

China today successfully launched a classified reconnaissance satellite, its Long March 2D rocket lifting off from its Xichang spaceport in the south of China.

No word on where the first stage, which uses toxic hypogolic fuel, crashed in the interior of China.

The leaders in 2023 launch race:

76 SpaceX
47 China
13 Russia
7 Rocket Lab
7 India

American private enterprise still leads China in successful launches 88 to 47, and the entire world combined 88 to 75. SpaceX by itself still leads the entire world combined (excluding American companies) 76 to 75.

China’s Long March 2D rocket launches military satellite

China yesterday used its Long March 2D rocket to place what is believed to be a military weather satellite into orbit, lifting off from its Jiuquan spaceport in the northwest of China.

No word on where the rocket’s first stage, which uses very toxic hypergolic fuel, crashed within China.

The leaders in 2023 launch race:

73 SpaceX
46 China
13 Russia
7 Rocket Lab
7 India

American private enterprise now leads China in successfully launches 85 to 46, and the entire world combined 85 to 74. SpaceX by itself now trails with the entire world combined (excluding American companies) 73 to 74.

China launches classified remote sensing satellite

Using its Long March 2D rocket, fueled by toxic hypergolic fuels, China today launched another classified remote sensing satellite from its Xichang spaceport in the southwest of China.

No word where the rocket’s lower stages crashed inside China, or whether they landed near habitable areas.

The leaders in the 2023 launch race:

69 SpaceX
45 China
13 Russia
7 Rocket Lab
7 India

American private enterprise now leads China in successful launches 80 to 45, and the entire world combined 80 to 72. SpaceX by itself trails the rest of the world (excluding American companies) by only 69 to 72.

SpaceX however has another Starlink launch scheduled to lift off shortly. The good live stream can be found here, using no distracting announcers while also using SpaceX’s own X feed.

China launches military reconnaissance satellite

China today successfully launched a classified military reconnaissance satellite, using its Long March 2D rocket lifting off from its Xichang spaceport in the south of China.

No word on where the rocket’s lower stages crashed in China. All the stages use hypergolic fuels, which are extremely toxic.

The leaders in the 2023 launch race:

65 SpaceX
43 China
13 Russia
7 Rocket Lab
7 India

American private enterprise still leads China in successful launches 76 to 43, and the entire world combined 76 to 69. SpaceX by itself now trails the rest of the world combined (excluding American companies) 65 to 69.

China’s Long March 2D launches 3 satellites

China today successfully placed three “remote sensing” satellites into orbit, using its Long March 2D rocket lifting off from its Xichang spaceport in south China.

The state-run press provided no other information, including whether the rocket’s lower stages crashed near habitable areas. According to the flight path, the crash zones were near major population centers, including one city with a population of nine million.

SpaceX meanwhile scrubbed a Falcon 9 launch this morning at Vandenberg due to an issue with one first stage engine, but it is still scheduled to launch 22 Starlink satellites this afternoon from Cape Canaveral. The live stream is here.

The leaders in the 2023 launch race:

59 SpaceX
38 China
12 Russia
7 Rocket Lab

In the national rankings, American private enterprise still leads China in successful launches 68 to 38. It also leads the entire world combined, 68 to 61, while SpaceX by itself now trails the rest of the world (excluding American companies) 59 to 61 in successful launches.

China’s Long March 2D rocket launches three satellites

China yesterday successfully placed three “remote-sensing” satellites into orbit, using its Long March 2D rocket lifting off from its interior Xichang spaceport.

No word on where the rocket’s lower stages crashed inside China.

The leaders in the 2023 launch race:

50 SpaceX (with a Falcon Heavy launch scheduled for tonight. Live stream here.)
30 China
9 Russia
6 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise still leads China in successful launches 57 to 30, and the entire world combined 57 to 49, with SpaceX by itself leading the entire world (excluding American companies) 50 to 49.

China’s Long March 2D rocket places four satellites into orbit

China’s Long March 2D rocket today put four satellites into orbit, three to provide “remote sensing observation data and provide commercial remote sensing services,” and one “satellite communications technology verification.”

That’s everything China’s state run press tells us. The launch was also from China’s Taiyuan interior spaceport, which means the rocket’s lower stages crashed somewhere in China. No word on whether they attempted to control the landing, or if it crashed near habitable areas.

The leaders in the 2023 launch race:

48 SpaceX (with a launch planned later today. Live stream here.)
29 China
9 Russia
6 Rocket Lab
5 India

American private enterprise still leads China in successful launches 55 to 29, and the entire world combined 55 to 48, with SpaceX by itself tied with the entire world combined (excluding other American companies) 48 to 48.

The SpaceX launch later today was originally scheduled for yesterday, but got scrubbed due to weather.

China launches 41 satellites on single launch, a record for that country

China today successfully used its Long March 2D rocket to place 41 satellites in orbit, a new record for that country, lifting off from its interior Taiyuan spaceport in north China.

No word on where the rocket’s first stage crashed within China, or whether it landed near any habitable areas. The Chinese state-run press also provided no information about any of those 41 satellites.

The leaders in the 2023 launch race:

40 SpaceX
23 China
8 Russia
5 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise still leads China 45 to 23 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 45 to 39, with SpaceX by itself still leading the rest of the world, excluding other American companies, 40 to 39.

Two launches by China

China's spaceports
China’s spaceports

China yesterday and today successfully completed two launches using two different rockets from two different spaceports.

First, a Long March 2D rocket yesterday launched a set of four satellites establishing a new constellation of radar satellites designed to measure the Earth’s surface topography. Lift off was from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in the northeast of China. No word on where the rocket’s first stage crashed.

Next, a Long March 4C rocket today placed in orbit a classified military “remote-sensing” satellite, lifting off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China’s northwest. Once again, no information was released on where the first and second stages of the rocket crashed to Earth.

The leaders in the 2023 launch race:

21 SpaceX
13 China
6 Russia
3 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise still leads China 24 to 13 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 24 to 23. SpaceX now trails the entire world combined, including American companies, 26 to 21.

China completes two launches today

China today continued its normal fast pace of winter launches, launching twice from two different spaceports.

First, a Long March 2C rocket launched a communications satellite from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest Sichuan Province. Then, a Long March 2D rocket launched three classified technology test satellites from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China.

As I noted in yesterday’s quick space links, the drop zones for both were in China. No word as yet on whether anything fell near habitable area.

At present the 2023 launch race consists entirely of China with four launches, and SpaceX with two.

China launches classified remote sensing satellite

Using its Long March 2D rocket, China last night successfully launched a classified remote sensing satellite into orbit.

The launch was from an interior spaceport. No word on where the first stage crash-landed.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

59 China
56 SpaceX
21 Russia
9 Rocket Lab
8 ULA

The U.S. still leads China 80 to 59 in the national rankings, but now trails the entire world combined 90 to 81.

Though SpaceX led China in successful launches for most of the year, China historically tends to do a lot of launches in the November-December time period. This is why it has surged ahead in the past month. SpaceX can still catch up, however, as it still has five launches planned for 2022. Either way, we will not know who comes out ahead until probably the end of the year.

That a private American company however has even a chance of beating out the entire world in annual launches is quite remarkable, whether or not SpaceX ends up ahead.

China completes two launches successfully

China today successfully completed two launches:

First, China’s government used its Long March 2D rocket to launch a classified Earth observation satellite into orbit. The rocket launched from an interior spaceport, dropping its expendable first stages within China.

Next, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) successfully completed the inaugural launch of its Smart Dragon-3 solid-fueled rocket, putting 14 smallsats into orbit. The rocket launched from a platform at sea, so its expendable stages fell in the ocean. Though the rocket is aimed at launching commercial payloads, it is still a Chinese government project using military missile technology.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

57 China
55 SpaceX
21 Russia
9 Rocket Lab
8 ULA

The U.S. still leads China 79 to 57 in the national rankings, but trails the entire world combined 87 to 79.

China launches military satellites using Long March 2D rocket

China yesterday used its Long March 2D rocket to put, according to Space Force data, three military satellites into orbit, even though China’s state run press says only one satellite was launched.

The Chinese space industry (opens in new tab) and media reports (opens in new tab)suggest that the launch carried a single Yaogan 36 remote sensing satellite. However space tracking by the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Defense Squadron, which focuses on space domain awareness, registered three payloads in orbit in roughly 300-mile-altitude (500 km) orbits.

China’s previous two launches involving Yaogan 36 satellites also saw satellite triplets sent into orbit, meaning Sunday’s launch was a third group of three Yaogan 36 satellites.

China typically describes Yaogan satellites as being designed for uses including gathering scientific data, conducting land surveys and monitoring agriculture. However, the secrecy surrounding the satellites leads analysts outside of China to believe that the satellites also have military capabilities and stakeholders.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

54 SpaceX
54 China
20 Russia
9 Rocket Lab
8 ULA

The U.S. still leads China 78 to 54 in the national rankings, while trailing the entire world combined 84 to 78.

China launches classified technology test satellite

China today successfully launched a classified technology test satellite using its Long March 2D rocket lifting off from its Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China.

No word on where the expendable first stage crashed within China.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

49 SpaceX
46 China
18 Russia
8 Rocket Lab
7 ULA

American private enterprise still leads China 69 to 46 in the national rankings, though it trails the rest of the world combined 73 to 69.

China launches military satellite

Using its Long March 2D rocket, China today successfully launched a satellite in its classified Yaogan series, suspected to be for military reconnaissance.

In fact, so little is known about the Yaogan satellites that we aren’t even sure how many were placed in orbit today. Normally a Yaogan launch puts three satellites into orbit (which is what this Space.com article assumes). The story from China’s state-run press above however does not say this at all. Instead, it implies that only one Yaogan satellite was launched.

Regardless, the leaders in the 2022 launch race:

47 SpaceX
45 China
14 Russia
8 Rocket Lab
7 ULA

American private enterprise still leads China 67 to 45 in the national rankings. It is now tied with the entire world combined 67 to 67. This launch today also brings the launch total this year to 134, which ties the record for the most successful launches in a single year, set last year. With two and a half months still to go, 2022 should end up breaking that record significantly.

China launches solar science telescope

China today used its Long March 2D rocket to launch its first solar science telescope, Advanced Space-borne Solar Observatory (ASO-S), also known as Kuafu-1.

The probe, which was first proposed in 1976 (!), has a four year nominal mission and is designed to monitor the Sun as goes through its next sunspot maximum. More information can be found here.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

46 SpaceX
43 China
12 Russia
8 Rocket Lab
7 ULA

American private enterprise still leads China 66 to 43 in the national rankings, and the entire globe combined 66 to 63.

Two Chinese launches: Long March 2D and Long March 6 put satellites into orbit

China successfully completed two launches in the past twelve hours, placing four satellites into orbit in total.

First, in the evening of September 26th, a Long March 2D rocket launched a “remote sensing” satellite into orbit. This was then followed in the morning of September 27th with the launch of a Long March 6 rocket, putting three “experimental” Earth observation satellites into orbit. We know nothing more about any of these satellites.

The article at the link lists a third launch, of a Kuaizhou-1A rocket, but I have already reported that.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

43 SpaceX
41 China
12 Russia
7 Rocket Lab
6 ULA

American private enterprise still leads China 60 to 41 in the national rankings. Against the entire world combined, the U.S. now trails 60 to 61.

Russia launches three astronauts to ISS; China launches Earth observation satellite

Russia today successfully used its Soyuz-2 rocket to launch three astronauts to ISS, two Russians and an American flying as part of the NASA-Roscosmos barter deal whereby each agency flies an astronaut from the other in order to make sure everyone knows how to use each other’s equipment.

China in turn today used its Long March 2D rocket to launch an Earth observations satellite into orbit.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

42 SpaceX
38 China
12 Russia
7 Rocket Lab
5 ULA

American private enterprise still leads China 58 to 38 in the national rankings, and is now tied with the entire world combined at 58.

China’s Long March 2D launches two military satellites

China yesterday successfully launched two military satellites using its Long March 2D rocket.

Launched from an interior spaceport, the rocket’s first stage crashed somewhere in China.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

40 SpaceX
36 China
11 Russia
6 Rocket Lab
5 ULA

American private enterprise still leads China 55 to 36 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 55 to 54.

China launches hi-res Earth observation satellite

China today used its Long March 2D rocket to place a new version of a smallsat Earth observation satellite into orbit. Dubbed the Beijing-3B, it appears to be an upgrade of a design first launched last year.

The launch site was in the interior of China, and for certain dumped its first stage onto that interior.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

37 SpaceX
33 China
11 Russia
6 Rocket Lab
5 ULA

American private enterprise still leads China 52 to 33 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 52 to 51.

SpaceX and China complete launches

Two launches have just occurred in the 2022 launch race. First, SpaceX today successfully launched another 53 Starlink satellites, using its Falcon 9 rocket.

The first stage successfully landed on its drone ship in the Atlantic, completing its ninth flight.

China in turn used its Long March 2D rocket to launch three military reconnaissance satellites, at what was the early morning hours of August 20, 2022, China time. The launch path took the rocket over China’s interior as well as Taiwan, with the first stage crashing somewhere in China.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

37 SpaceX
31 China
11 Russia
6 Rocket Lab
5 ULA

American private enterprise still leads China 52 to 31 in the national rankings, and the entire world 52 to 49. The 52 launches so far this year is now the fifth best total for the U.S. since the launch of Sputnik in 1957.

Long March 2D launches two military satellites for China

China today successfully launched two military reconnaissance satellites, using its Long March 2D rocket.

The launch was from an interior spaceport, which means the rocket’s lower stages, which use very toxic hypergolic fuels, crashed to Earth inside China.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

33 SpaceX
26 China
9 Russia
5 Rocket Lab
4 ULA

American private enterprise still leads China 46 to 26 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 46 to 42.

China and Europe complete launches

In the past 24 hours both Europe and China successfully completed launches.

First Arianespace’s Ariane-5 rocket yesterday launched two commercial communications satellites, for Malaysia and India. With this flight the Ariane-5 rocket has only four flights to go before it is retired and replaced with ArianeGroup’s not-yet flown Ariane-6 rocket.

Then, China today used its Long March 2D rocket to launch three remote-sensing satellites.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

26 SpaceX
20 China
8 Russia
3 Rocket Lab
3 ULA
2 Europe (Arianespace)

The U.S. still leads China 35 to 20 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 35 to 33.

China’s Long March 2D rocket launches 8 satellites

China today used its Long March 2D rocket to place eight Earth observation satellites into orbit as part of a larger constellation.

The Jilin-1 constellation, now consisting of 50 Earth observation satellites since its first launch in 2015, is China’s first-ever commercial remote-sensing satellite system. The system is operated by Chang Guang Satellite Technology Corporation, also known as Charming Globe, a commercial spinoff of the Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics, and Physics in the northeast Chinese city of Changchun.

The constellation is planned to consist of 138 satellites by 2025, and the satellites will be orbiting at 535 km altitude above Earth. The constellation, featuring types of satellites with different capabilities, will ultimately be capable of revisiting any point on Earth every ten minutes, with an interim thirty-minute capability being achieved with sixty satellites in orbit.

China claims the data from this constellation will be for commercial use. Don’t be surprised however if its primary customer turns out to be China’s military.

As the rocket launched from one of China’s interior spaceports, its first stage crash landed in China. No word on whether it used parachutes or grid fins to control that landing.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

17 SpaceX
14 China
6 Russia
3 Rocket Lab
2 ULA

The U.S. still leads China 25 to 14 in the national rankings, with the U.S. leading all other nations combined 25 to 23.

China launches military test satellite

The new colonial movement: China yesterday completed its first launch in 2022, using its Long March 2D rocket to launch a military test satellite into orbit.

No word on where the first stage crashed in the interior of China, or whether it used parachutes or grid fins to control its landing.

The 2022 launch race:

2 SpaceX
1 Virgin Orbit
1 China

These numbers should change later today, as SpaceX has a Falcon 9 Starlink launch scheduled. UPDATE: The SpaceX Starlink launch has been delayed one day to tomorrow.

China completes two launches to make 2021 the most active year in rocketry ever

China yesterday completed two different launches from two different spaceports using two different rockets.

First it used its Long March 2D rocket to launch an Earth observation satellite from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northern China.

Then, a few hours later, a Long March 3B rocket launched a classified military satellite from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China.

Both launches dropped first stage boosters in the interior of China. No word on whether either used parachutes or grid fins to better control the stages so that they avoid habitable areas.

These two launches bring China’s total number of successful launches in 2021 to 52, a record for that country and the most any single country has achieved since Russia successfully launched 54 times in 1992 as its high launch rate slowly shut down following the fall of the Soviet Union.

The two launches also bring the total number of successful launches in 2021 to 134, the most in any single year in the entire history of space exploration. The last time global launches reached such numbers was in the 1970s and 1980s, numbers that were produced mostly by the launch of a lot of short term low orbit surveillance satellites by the Soviets, using technology that the U.S. had abandoned in the 1960s as inefficient. It took the collapse of the communist state for Russia to finally cease such launches itself.

Now the high number of launches is increasingly being fueled by commercial competition and profits, though China’s record this year is partly due to the same top down communist set-up similar to the Soviet Union. Even so, the number of competing private rocket companies worldwide is on the rise, and in most places (even China in a few cases), it is those companies that are providing the launch services to the government. Profit and private ownership are the watchwords, and so there is aggressive competition that is lowering the launch cost.

I will have more to say about this in my annual report, which I will publish on Monday, January 3rd.

The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

52 China
31 SpaceX
23 Russia
7 Europe (Arianespace)

China’s Long March 2D rocket launches three earth observation satellites

China today used its Long March 2D rocket to launch three more earth observation satellites, which could be for civilian or military use.

No word also on whether the first stage carried any grid fins or parachutes to control its return to Earth, or whether it crashed near habitable areas.

The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

41 China
23 SpaceX
18 Russia
4 Northrop Grumman
4 ULA
4 Europe (Arianespace)

China now leads the U.S. 41 to 36 in the national rankings.

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