China launches Yaogan Weixing-31 remote sensing satellite

China has successfully launched its newest Yaogan Weixing-31 remote sensing satellite abroad a Long March 2D rocket from the LC43 Launch Complex at the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center (JSLC) in China’s Gansu Province, on Dec. 3.

According to Chinese media, the newly launched spacecraft is a land-exploration satellite, named Land Surveying Satellite -1 (LKW-1), and will be mainly used for remote sensing exploration of land resources. The reports noted that the satellite can be used for scientific experiments, land survey, crop yield assessment, and disaster monitoring.

However, Western analysts believe that the satellite will be employed for military purposes.

Yaogan Weixing-31 was developed by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST). It is probably an electro-optical observation satellite based on the military Jianbing-6 series or the follow on series. The spacecraft most likely utilizes uses the CAST-2000 platform.

Yaogan Weixing

Yaogan (in full Yaogan Weixing (遥感卫星), “Remote Sensing Satellite”; sometimes written YaoGan) refers to a series of Chinese reconnaissance satellites launched in the early 21st century.

Chinese media describe the satellites as intended for “scientific experiments, land survey, crop yield assessment, and disaster monitoring”. Western analysts suspect that they are also used for military purposes. Analysts believe that each satellite employs either optical or synthetic aperture radar (SAR) sensors and that the SAR satellites are of the Jian Bing-5 or higher series.

The SAR satellite was developed by the Shanghai Academy of Space Flight Technology(SAST). The electro-optical digital imaging satellite was developed by the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST). It is carried into space atop a Chang Zheng (Long March) rocket.

Yaogan satellites have been launched from both the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in China’s northern Shanxi province and the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in China’s northwestern Gansu province.

The first Yaogan satellite was launched in 2006, whereas the second generation of the series was inaugurated in 2008. The previous Yaogan spacecraft (Yaogan 30) was orbited on May 15, 2016.

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