China launches mysterious new spy satellite

China has launched a mysterious spy satellite that “will monitor land, crop yields and natural disasters” but could also collect military intelligence, analysts believe.

Yaogan 33 (02) satellite took off on top of China long walk 4C rocket from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert at 7:44 p.m. on Friday, September 2 (2344 GMT or 7:44 a.m. Beijing time on September 3) in what was East Asia’s 35th space power launch succeeded this year.

The rocket exploded into the sky as distinctive colored exhaust patterns trailed below, with plumes of orange-brown dust and smoke rising around the launch tower.

The US Space Force has recovered two new orbiting objects associated with the Jiuquan launch: the new satellite in a 428-by-423-mile (688-by-680-kilometer) near-polar orbit and the Long March 4C upper stage in orbit with a lower perigee orbit, or closer approach to Earthof 306 miles (492 km).

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Little is known about Yaogan 33, a new classified series of remote sensing satellites. Chinese state-controlled media State (opens in a new tab)that the spacecraft will be used for “scientific experiments, census of national earth resources, crop yield estimation and disaster prevention”.

Western space analysts, however, suggest that the Yaogan series satellites serve both civilian and military users in China. Last month China spear new batches of Yaogan 35 satellites, which could be used for Earth observation or signals intelligence gathering tasks.

NASA spaceflight reported that the previous 33-series satellite, Yaogan 33(01), launched in late 2020, was likely a space-based synthetic aperture radar (SAR) system that can image through clouds and at night . The Yaogan 33 (01) and (02) are now in similar orbits.

An attempt to launch what could have been the first satellite in the Yaogan 33 series ended in failure in 2019, SpaceNews reported (opens in a new tab)in 2019.

China has carried out 35 launches so far in 2022, with the country’s main space contractor, CASC, aiming to launch more than 50 times This year. The United States has thrown 50 times as of September 5.

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