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Long March carrier rocket lifts four satellites into space

By Zhao Lei | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2020-02-20 06:42
China launches a Long March 2D carrier rocket lifting four satellites into space at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Southwest China's Sichuan province, Jan 20, 2020. [Photo by Sun Gongming/provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

China launched a Long March 2D carrier rocket on Thursday morning at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Southwest China's Sichuan province, according to China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

Four technology demonstration satellites were lifted into space atop the rocket, which blasted off at 5:07 am, and are tasked with demonstrating and verifying new technologies for intersatellite links as well as Earth observations, the space contractor said in a statement.

The launch marked the country's fourth spaceflight in 2020 and the 326th mission of the Long March rocket series. The rocket and two of the satellites were developed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, and the other two satellites were respectively built by the Harbin Institute of Technology and the China Academy of Space Technology.

The mission could be seen as an indicator that China's space programs have not been extensively affected by the ongoing novel coronavirus outbreak, which has led to the lockdown of many cities in the country and suspension of businesses.

China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp said that it now has a lot of workers doing preparation work for coming missions, noting measures have been taken to ensure those people's health and missions' implementation.

The State-owned space conglomerate said in January that it has plans of carrying out more than 40 launch missions to serve national space programs, such as the completion of the Beidou Navigation Satellite System, and meet demand from commercial satellite operators.

Company insiders said the 40-odd planned missions would be carried out by the conglomerate's Long March-series rockets, the nation's backbone rocket fleet, and do not include those to be made by the company's newly developed Smart Dragon solid-propellant rockets.

This means the actual number of launches by the company in 2020 will be even bigger.

At least four new types of rockets from the company – the Long March 5B, Long March 7A, Long March 8 and Smart Dragon 2 – are scheduled to conduct their maiden missions this year.

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