MOSCOW, November 15 (Sputnik) — China launched a remote sensing satellite in the early hours of Saturday morning, from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in Taiyuan, capital of north China's Shanxi Province.
The satellite “will be used for scientific experiments, natural resource surveying, estimating crop yields and disaster relief,” says China’s Xinhua news agency.
Xinhua reports that the satellite, named Yaogan-23, is being taken on its mission by a Long March 2C carrier rocket, the 198th in this series of launch vehicles. The first Long March rocket, named after the Long March of Chinese communist history, launched in 1970 when it took China’s first satellite into space. That satellite was known as Dong Fang Hong 1, meaning “The East is Red.”
Yoagan-1, the first of the current series of satellites, was carried into space in 2006 and is believed to have broken up in 2010 due to an external explosion. Yoagan satellites are launched from Taiyuan or alternatively Jiuquan, in Inner Mongolia. Saturday’s launch marks the fourth of 2014 from the Taiyuan Satellite launch Center, and the tenth orbital launch from China this year.
Despite Xinhua’s declaration that the satellite is to be used for civilian research purposes, it is believed in the West to be carrying out military surveillance. According to NASA, “Western analysts believe this class of satellites is used for military purposes,” in line with previous launches of the Yoagan series.
The Yoagan satellite was developed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology, a subsidiary organization of the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation. The Long March rocket was designed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology, another CASTC subsidiary.