Science

China launches 2 orbital missions in less than 2 hours (video)

China continues to ramp up spaceflight, launching two missions into orbit in less than two hours.

The doubleheader began on Monday (September 5) at 22:24 ET (0224 GMT and 10:24 Beijing time on September 6) when the Kuaizhou-1A solid-propellant rocket lifted off from the Jiuquan Space Center in northwest China.

The rocket successfully delivered two test satellites to orbit for Beijing Future Navigation Technology Co. Ltd, according to SpaceNews. (will open in a new tab). Known as CentiSpace-1-S3 and 1-S4, the spacecraft will test various technologies, including those developed to improve navigational capabilities.

Related: Latest news about China’s space program

The second mission launched on Tuesday (September 6) at 04:19 ET (0419 GMT; 12:19 Beijing time) from Xichang Space Center in Sichuan province, in the southwestern part of the country. On this flight, the Long March 2D rocket lifted three more Yaogan-35 remote sensing satellites, the fifth batch of such triple satellites into orbit to date.

“The satellites will be mainly used for conducting scientific experiments, studying land resources, evaluating agricultural yields, and preventing and reducing natural disasters,” Chinese broadcaster CCTV wrote in a brief description of the mission. (will open in a new tab).

However, they can do more; Western experts believe that the Yaogan-35 network is likely conducting intelligence for the Chinese military, according to SpaceNews.

Monday night’s launch was the 17th overall for the Kuaizhou-1A, which is operated by state-owned Expace. Tuesday morning’s launch was the 436th to date for the venerable and diverse Chinese Long March family, CCTV writes in its description.

China launched 37 orbital missions in 2022, according to SpaceNews. This is a lot, but a little behind the pace of SpaceX. This year, Elon Musk’s company has 40 missions, 26 of which sent large batches of SpaceX Starlink Internet satellites into orbit.

Mike Wall is the author of Out There (will open in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrations by Carl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) or on facebook (will open in a new tab).

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