After losing the first Long March-7A one week ago, China launched a new group of triplet satellites for the Chuangxin-5 (CX-5) constellation. Launched under the name Yaogan Weixing-30 Group-6, the three satellites were orbited by a Long March-2C launch vehicle from the LC3 Launch Complex of the Xichang Satellite Launch Center. The launch took place at 03:43 UTC.
Like the previous missions on the series, this mission is once again classed as involving new remote sensing birds that will be used to “conduct electromagnetic probes and other experiments.”
As was the case in previous launches of the Yaogan Weixing series, analysts believe this class of satellites is used for military purposes, in particular forming a high-revisit smallsat constellation for signal intelligence missions or imaging activities.
Working with the former Soviet Union (and on a smaller scale with Russia) ‘Cosmos’ designation, the ‘Yaogan’ name is used to hide the true military nature of the vehicles orbited.
The Chuangxin-5 satellites were developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences Small Satellite Center. All the Yaogan Weixing-30 / Chuangxin missions were launch by Long March-2C rockets from Xichang Satellite Launch Center.
The first three satellites were launch on September 29, 2017, followed by another three sats on November 24 the same year. The Yaogan Weixing-30 Group-3 was launched on December 25, 2017, being followed by another trio on January 25, 2018. The previous addition to the satellites launched today, was on July 26, 2019 (the Yaogan Weixing-30 Group-5).
The launch of triplet missions is not new for China. Previously there were various missions with three satellites launch on a singular carrier rocket in missions similar to the Naval Ocean Surveillance System (NOSS) operated by the United States. The missions were carried out by the Yaogan 9, 16, 17, 20, 25 triplet satellites launched by Long March-4C launch vehicles from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. It is believed these are the Jianbing-8 military satellites operating in orbits with 1100 x 1100km, 63°.
The Chang Zheng 2C (Long March 2C) is a Low Earth Orbit (LEO) launch vehicle derived from DF-5 ICBM.
Equipped with two launch pads (LC2 and LC3), the center has a dedicated railway and highway lead directly to the launch site. The Command and Control Centre is located seven kilometers south-west of the launch pad, providing flight and safety control during launch rehearsal and launch.
Downrange Tracking and Control stations of the launch center are located in Xichang City and Yibin City of Sichuan Province, and Guiyang City of Guizhou Province. Each of them houses tracking and measurement equipment for the powered phase of a launch vehicle flight.
Other facilities on the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre are the Launch Control Centre, propellant fuelling systems, communications systems for launch command, telephone and data communications for users, and support equipment for meteorological monitoring and forecasting.
During 1993-1994 Xichang underwent extensive modernization and expansion, in part due to the requirements of the CZ-3 launcher family and in part to meet commercial customer needs.
The first launch from Xichang took place at 12:25 UTC on January 29, 1984, when the Long March (Y1) was launched the Shiyan Weixing (14670 1984-008A) communications satellite into orbit.