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China launches science satellite
( 2003-11-03 16:47) (Xinhua)

China on Monday launched a recoverable science experimental satellite into a preset orbit, atop a Long March 2 D carrier rocket from a newly-built launch tower at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Northwest China's Gansu Province.

Space officials said the China-made satellite was launched at 3:20 p.m.. The officials said the satellite would remain in orbit for 18 days before returning to Earth.

Reports from Xi'an Satellite Monitor and Control Center say the satellite is orbiting as scheduled and its instruments are functioning normally.

It is the 18th recoverable satellite developed by China, and is technically much more advanced than the previous ones in terms of its performance.

The satellite is mainly for scientific research, land surveying, mapping and other scientific experiments, said space experts.

The data China gathered from the satellite will help promote the country's scientific and technological, economic and social development.

With a lift-off mass of 251 tons, the launch vehicle, 40.6 meters in length, was developed by the Shanghai Academy of Space Technology with China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

The launch is the 73rd by the country's Long March carrier rockets since 1970, and the 31st consecutive successful launch since October 1996.

Space experts said the success rate of Long March rockets was 91 percent.

Monday's launch came less than a month after China's first manned space flight on Oct. 15 and 16, and the Oct. 21 launch of an earth resources satellite developed in cooperation with Brazil and a smaller satellite.

Space experts said the number of launches in such short period is unprecedented in the country's history, indicating the country's progress in launch capability and development of launch vehicle and spacecraft.

Testing of world's first non-steel launch tower

Monday's successful launch of China's recoverable science experimental satellite shows the reliability of the world's first satellite testing and launch tower with a structure of cement reinforced by steel bars, space experts said.

The tower, 91 meters high, replaces the commonly-used steel structure. Located at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in Gansu Province, northwest China, the tower looks like a high-rise building and is used for assembling, testing and launching satellites and rockets, beside injecting propellants.

The building comprises of more than 40 testing workshops and closed rooms, providing all-weather pre-launch testing in convenient and comfortable conditions for engineers and technicians even it is windy, bitterly cold or very hot outside.

Compared with the popular steel-structured launch tower at home and abroad, the new tower is cost-effective.

Experts say the new launch tower represents the country's first versatile launch facility capable of testing and launching different models of satellites.

Previously, China had to build separate test, launch and control systems for different models of satellite.

Located near the launch pad for China's manned spacecraft flight, the new tower shares some of the ground facilities.

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