China launches new mystery Shiyan satellite (video)


China launched the latest in its secretive Shiyan satellite series over the weekend.

A Long March 4C rocket lifted off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert, northwest China, at 7:43 p.m.EDT on May 11 (2343 GMT, or 7:43 a.m. Beijing time on May 12). Chinese authorities revealed the mission payload to be Shiyan-23 once launch was declared to be successful.

Chinese authorities provided no images of the satellite. The only description of the spacecraft states that Shiyan-23 will be used for space environment monitoring.

Related: China launches mysterious Shiyan-20C satellite to orbit (video)

a white rocket lifts off in the desert above a cloud of dust and smoke

a white rocket lifts off in the desert above a cloud of dust and smoke

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This vague description is fairly standard for the classified Shiyan satellite series, whose name translates as “experiment.” The satellites likely perform a variety of tasks, operate in diverse orbits and test a range of new technologies.

China has launched at least 36 Shiyan satellites in the last two decades. At least one of them has surprised observers by executing “conducting unusual satellite maneuvers,” according to SpacePolicyOnline.

This mission was the 522nd flight of China’s Long March series of launch vehicles. The country aims to launch around 100 missions this year.

Its Chang’e-6 lunar sample return mission — launched earlier this month —is currently in orbit around the moon preparing for a landing attempt in the coming weeks. If successful, it will be the world’s first mission to return samples from the moon’s far side.



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