China orbited a secretive Earth observation satellite during an unannounced launch Sunday from the Taiyuan space center in the northern part of the nation.
Liftoff of the Yaogan 3 satellite was at 2248 GMT (5:48 p.m. EST) Sunday, or in the predawn hours Monday morning at the launch site. The Long March 4C booster left the 5,952-pound satellite in its targeted Sun-synchronous orbit about 21 minutes into the mission, according to the official Xinhua news agency.
Sunday’s flight was the first for the Long March 4C rocket, which carries an upgraded upper stage able to conduct multiple engine firings during a single launch, according to China’s primary space contractor.
Xinhua reported that Yaogan 3 will be used in a variety of civilian fields, including scientific research, land surveying, agricultural monitoring, and disaster relief.
The payload could also be used for a range of military reconnaissance applications, although Chinese news reports did include any further information on the satellite’s mission.
Sunday’s flight marked the 10th orbital launch of the year for the burgeoning space power. It was also the 55th space launch to successfully reach orbit in 2007 from locations around the world.
BY STEPHEN CLARK