China successfully launches classified satellite

China tonight (November 1, 2023 in China) successfully launched a classified satellite, its Long March 6 rocket lifting off from its Taiyuan spaceport in the north part of the country.

No video of the launch was released. Nor were any pictures. In addition, no information was released describing where the rocket’s first and second stages crashed. Both use kerosene and oxygen, so neither is as toxic as China’s other older rockets using hypergolic fuels, but China also does not make any apparent effort to control these crash landings.

The leaders in the 2023 launch race:

78 SpaceX
49 China
14 Russia
7 Rocket Lab
7 India

American private enterprise still leads China 90 to 49 in successful launches, and the entire world combined 90 to 78. SpaceX by itself is now tied with the rest of the world (excluding American companies) 78 to 78.

Two launches today, one by ULA and one by China

Today there were two successful launches. First China launched a remote sensing satellite using its Long March 6 rocket that lifted off from its Taiyuan spaceport in the south of China.

No word on where the rocket’s lower stages and four strap-on boosters crashed inside China.

Shortly thereafter, ULA used its Atlas-5 rocket to place a reconnaissance satellite into orbit for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), lifting off from Cape Canaveral.

For ULA, this was only its second launch in 2023. The leaders in the 2023 launch race are now as follows, with China’s total corrected:

63 SpaceX
42 China
12 Russia
7 Rocket Lab
7 India

In the national rankings, American private enterprise now leads China in successful launches 73 to 42. It also now leads the entire world combined, 73 to 67, while SpaceX by itself now trails the rest of the world (excluding American companies) only 63 to 67.

CORRECTION: Hat tip to reader John Foley (see his comment below), who noted that China’s total appeared to be one short. I went back and discovered I had missed a March 22, 2023 launch of a Kuaizhou 1A rocket from the Jiujian spaceport, placing four weather satellites in orbit. I have now added that launch to China’s total, and corrected the other numbers.

China launches classified experimental satellite

Using its Long March 6 rocket, China today launched what its state-run press called a “new experimental Earth-observation satellite,” lifting off its Taiyuan interior spaceport.

No word on whether the rocket’s first stage crashed near habitable areas, or whether it used parachutes to control its descent.

The leaders in the 2023 launch race:

41 SpaceX
24 China
8 Russia
5 Rocket Lab

American private enterprise still leads China in successful launches 46 to 24 in the national rankings, and the entire world combined 46 to 40, with SpaceX by itself still leading the rest of the world, excluding other American companies, 41 to 40.

Chinese upper stage disintegrates in orbit

A Chinese Long March 6 upper stage, launched in on November 11, 2022, has disintegrated into more than 350 in orbit and now pose a threat to other orbiting spacecraft.

The Long March 6A rocket launched from Taiyuan, north China, on Nov. 11, successfully inserting the Yunhai 3 environmental monitoring satellite into its intended orbit.

The upper stage of the rocket, however, apparently suffered a breakup event shortly thereafter. On Nov. 12, the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Defense Squadron (18SDS) reported that it was tracking at least 50 discrete pieces of orbital debris from the rocket body. Ongoing tracking from 18SDS, which focuses on space domain awareness, now states that the debris cloud has grown to 350 objects associated with the rocket stage.

Based on the data, it appears the break-up occurred because the stage had an explosive event. It could have been programed to fire its engine to quickly de-orbit it and something went wrong. Or not. The Chinese have not demonstrated much concern about such issues.

China launches environmental satellite

Using its Long March 6 rocket, China early today launched what China’s state-run press claimed was an environmental satellite for “atmospheric and marine environment surveys, space environment surveys, disaster prevention and reduction, and scientific experiments.” Whether that is true is anybody’s guess.

The leaders in the 2022 launch race:

52 SpaceX
50 China
19 Russia
9 Rocket Lab
8 ULA

American private enterprise now leads China 75 to 50 in the national rankings, and trails the rest of the world combined 78 to 75.

FYI, posting is late today because today Diane and I were out hiking, having fun.

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.

China launches Landsat-type satellite using Long March 6

China today successfully placed a Landsat-type satellite into a sun-synchronous orbit, using its Long March 6 rocket. From the link:

The Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center sits at an altitude of approximately 1,500 meters (4,920 feet) above sea level, its dry climate making it an ideal launch site for the Chinese space program. Unlike the Kennedy Space Center or the Guyana Space Centre, however, Taiyuan is located inland rather than on China’s eastern coast. This means spent rocket stages can crash-land near populated regions depending on the rocket’s flight trajectory.

Some recent flights of [Long March] rockets have featured parachutes and even grid fins mounted on the first stage boosters, presumably in an attempt to mitigate any collateral damage caused by falling debris. Friday’s launch did not see this type of hardware in place.

No word yet on where the first stage booster landed, or if it landed near habitable areas.

The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

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

China now leads the U.S. 40 to 36 in the national rankings. Its forty successful launches so far this year is the most by a single nation since Russia completed 49 in 1994.

This was also the 100th successful launch this year. Based on the number of planned launches presently scheduled,, that number could easily rise to more than 125, the most since the early 1980s.

China’s Long March 6 launches two military technology test satellites

Using its Long March 6 rocket, China yesterday successfully placed two military technology test satellites into orbit, designed to test “new interference suppression technology for Ka-band mobile communications satellites.”

The launch occurred at one of China’s interior spaceports. No word on whether the rocket’s first stage crashed near habitable area.

The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

25 China
20 SpaceX
12 Russia
3 Northrop Grumman
3 Rocket Lab

The U.S. still leads China 30 to 25 in the national rankings.

China launches 5 military reconnaissance satellites

Using its Long March 6 rocket, China today successfully launched five military reconnaissance satellites.

This is China’s fourth successful launch in the past week.

Though this newer rocket’s first stage does not use toxic hypergolic fuels — China’s older rockets — that first stage still crashes in China after its job is done and it falls to Earth. No word on whether it landed near inhabited regions.

The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

22 China
20 SpaceX
11 Russia
3 Northrop Grumman

The U.S. still leads China 29 to 22 in the national rankings.

China launches nine satellites using Long March 6 rocket

China today used its Long March 6 rocket, designed to launch small satellites, to place what the country’s state-run media describes as “nine commercial satellites.”

Two satellites apparently are aimed at Earth observation, while the others are testing various satellite designs.

The leaders in the 2021 launch race:

11 SpaceX
9 China
7 Russia
2 Rocket Lab

The U.S. still leads China 16 to 9 in the national rankings.

China launches ten satellites for Argentinian company

China today used its Long March 6 rocket to successfully launch ten satellites for the Argentinian company Satellogic S.A.

The satellites form the beginning of a 25-satellite constellation designed to do Earth resource observations. The Chinese rocket in turn is designed to capture the emerging smallsat market.

The leaders in the 2020 launch race:

28 China
19 SpaceX
12 Russia
4 ULA
4 Europe (Arianespace)
4 Rocket Lab

The U.S. remains ahead of China 30 to 28 in the national rankings.

China completes two launches today

In a space of three hours today China successfully completed two launches. First, a Kuaizhou-1A rocket, intended for commercial launches, placed a civilian Earth resource satellite into orbit. Then, a Long March 6 rocket put five remote sensing satellites into orbit.

The leaders in the 2019 launch race:

24 China
17 Russia
11 SpaceX
6 Europe (Arianespace)

With these two launches China has leap-frogged past the U.S. to take the lead in the national rankings, 24 to 23.

Argentinian smallsat company signs 90 satellite deal with China

An Argentinian smallsat company, Satellogic, has signed a 90 satellite launch deal with China.

Satellogic’s constellation seems likely to compete with the remote-imaging satellite constellations operated by San Francisco-based Planet and Seattle-based BlackSky. The company promises to remap Earth at 1-meter pixel resolution every week and dramatically reduce the cost of high-frequency geospatial analytics.

The deal is officially signed with a so-called private launch company in China dubbed China Great Wall Industry, but that company merely acts as an agent for a Chinese government space operation, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

What this means however is that China’s launch rate is going to go even higher in the next few years.

Long March 6 launch a success

The competition heats up: The first launch of China’s smallsat rocket Long March 6 was a success on Saturday, putting 20 satellites into orbit.

This rocket is part of a new family of Chinese rockets, modularly designed so that can be reconfigured depending on payload or mission. The big launch however will be next year, when they attempt the first test flight of the largest member of this family.

China to launch new rocket today

The competition heats up: With the expected first launch of China’s new Long March 6 rocket today, this report nicely outlines the status of the country’s rocket program.

Like Russia’s Angara and SpaceX’s Falcon, the new generation of Long March rockets are modular and use the same rocket engine. This has reduced cost and allows for faster assembly. The launch today is the maiden flight of the smaller member of this family. The key launch will be that of the larger Long March 5, scheduled for next year. Capable of putting 25 tons in orbit (five more than Proton), this is the rocket they plan to use to launch the modules for their full-sized space station.