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Long March carrier rocket sends two satellites into orbit

By Zhao Lei | | Updated: 2020-05-30 10:20

A Long March 11 carrier rocket was launched on the early morning of Saturday, sending two technology demonstration satellites into orbit, according to China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp.

The State-owned space giant said in a statement that the solid-propellant rocket blasted off at 4:13 am at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan province, marking its first mission at the center and the 332nd flight of Long March series.

The mission also marked the first use of a 2-meter-diameter fairing on Long March 11 and the first use of a new launch vehicle, the statement said.

The two satellites lifted were developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences' Innovation Academy for Microsatellites in Shanghai and National University of Defense Technology in Hunan province's Changsha and are tasked with conducting inter-satellite data link and Earth observation tests, the company said, adding that Long March 11 will undertake several flights on land-based launch centers and its sea-launch platform.

Designed and built by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, the Long March 11 is the first and only solid-fuel rocket in the Long March family, the pillar of the country's space programs.

The model has a length of 20.8 meters, a diameter of 2 meters and a liftoff weight of 58 metric tons. It is capable of sending satellites to low-Earth orbit or Sun-synchronous orbit, according to the academy.

Its first flight was in September 2015 from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China's Gobi Desert, ferrying four satellites to a Sun-synchronous orbit.

By now, the rocket has performed nine launches, including a seaborne mission from the Yellow Sea in June 2019, and successfully placed 39 satellites into space in those operations.

Designers have begun to develop an upgraded variant of the Long March 11 called the Long March 11A, which will be wider and taller than its predecessor and will have greater thrust, designers have said.

The new model will be able to send 1.5 tons of payload to a Sun-synchronous orbit at an altitude of 700 km, nearly four times the Long March 11's capacity to that orbit.

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