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China's tallest rocket deploys two satellites

Christian Fernsby |
The launch of a modified Long March 7A carrier rocket on Dec 23 that sent two experimental satellites into space marked the debut mission of China's tallest rocket.

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The 60.7-meter-tall rocket blasted off at 6:12 pm from a coastal launch tower at the Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province before placing the Shiyan 12-01 and 12-02 satellites into their orbits, China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp, the nation's major space contractor, said.

Developed by the company's China Academy of Space Technology in Beijing, the two satellites-whose name translates as experiment-are tasked with surveying the spatial environment and conducting related technological tests, the State-owned enterprise said in a brief statement issued after the launch.

It was the first time China has used one rocket to deploy two large satellites to high-altitude orbits. To make the flight possible, China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology in Beijing used a new fairing that was higher than those on the two previously launched Long March 7As, said Wei Yuanming, a chief designer of Long March 7A.

According to designers, the Long March 7A has a liftoff weight of 573 metric tons and a core-stage diameter of 3.35 meters. It is capable of placing a 7-ton spacecraft into geosynchronous transfer orbit.

Flight on Dec 23 also marked this year's 45th liftoff of the Long March rocket family, which is the pillar of China's space programs. All of the Long March rocket launches this year have been successful.

China has carried out more space missions than any other spacefaring nation this year, with 52 orbital launches.


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