Late Friday (March 12), China National Space Administration deployed another trio of the satellites into orbit, expanding its network of surveillance satellites monitoring areas near Chinese territories. China’s national space agency, the China National Space Administration (CNSA), coordinates the country’s space operations. Unlike the other space organizations worldwide, it is not a part of the Universal Space Station and still runs its very own small space station.
CNSA has performed many manned space missions after Yang Liwei became the first Chinese national in space in the year 2003. A 3-person crew onboard Shenzhou 9 allowed the first Chinese manned docking in the space in the year 2013, docking with Tiangong 1, which is a single-room station.
With its Chang’e 3 lander as well as Yutu rover, the organization made the first soft descent on the moon in decades in 2014 December. CNSA also conducts annual launches utilizing the Chang Zheng (Long March) rocket sequence on its own. As per local media, a new group of Yaogan 31-series satellites deployed from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center situated in the northwest China, close the Gobi Desert, at 9:19 p.m. EST Friday (0219 GMT Saturday or 10:39 a.m. local time).
According to a brief article from the Chinese state media agency Xinhua, the satellites were safely launched from Long March-4C rocket which brought them to space. According to the paper, “the satellites will be utilized for electromagnetic atmosphere surveys and other associated technology experiments.”
Although China has remained tight-lipped about the satellites’ intent, outside observers suspect the Yaogan-31 series is used for military purposes, intercepting radio signals from the foreign ships. As per Spaceflight Now, the spacecraft has a visual sensor, as well as signal intelligence instruments on board. “As per publicly accessible U.S. military satellite monitoring results, the Long March 4C launched the Yaogan 31 trio in orbit about 680 miles (1,100 kilometers) in an altitude at an orientation of 63.4 degrees to the equator,” Spaceflight Now stated.
According to the article, the orbits of March 12 satellites seem to be identical to those of two previous Yaogan-31 satellite releases on January 29 as well as February 24, according to the article. In April 2018, a new generation of satellites was successfully launched. While both of these satellites have the same altitude, the extra launches are likely to reduce the number of occasions a specific area is observable beneath the satellites’ orbit, which takes them across coastal regions like the South Shetland Islands.
So far, in 2021, China has been really active with its space operations. We’ve witnessed China’s Tianwen-1 spacecraft successfully entered Mars orbit as well as prepare for the Mars landing, the Yutu 2 rover as well as Chang’e 4 lander studying rocks on lunar far side, and rumors that the country’s first space station module will be deployed shortly.