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China launches more surveillance satellites

Three more Yaogan 30-series military surveillance satellites were launched from China's Xichang Satellite Launch Centre on 19 July, bringing the total number of satellites in the constellation to 30.

The state-owned People's Daily newspaper reported that the satellites were launched aboard a Long March 2C carrier rocket and successfully deployed in orbit. It described the function of the satellites as “conducting electromagnetic environmental detection and other experimental observations” but did not acknowledge their military utility.

The satellites are the 10th group of triplets to be launched since September 2017 and are referred to as Yaogan 30-10A/B/C. The preceding group of three was launched on 18 June.

Unlike satellite triplets configured for geolocation of radio communications or radar emissions that orbit in close proximity to facilitate measurement of the difference in time of arrival of an intercepted signal at each satellite, previous Yaogan 30-series satellites orbit in the same plane but are spaced 120° apart.

Although the Yaogan 30-10A/B/C satellites have yet to be manoeuvred into their final operational orbits they are expected to be positioned as the preceding groups: spaced 120° apart in an orbit inclined at 35° and at an altitude of 600 km.

The deployment of the Yaogan 30-10-series satellites brings the total number of satellites deployed by China since the start of July to 16, from five launches.

In addition, China successfully launched a reusable suborbital vehicle for the first time on 16 July from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre that subsequently landed in horizontal flight at Alxa in Inner Mongolia, according to state-owned media.

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