China’s first space mission of 2022 – Classified satellites launched

China launched another classified satellite, the Shiyan 13, into polar orbit with a Long March 2D rocket on 16 January 2022, the first of more than 50 Chinese Long March rocket missions planned in 2022. China has conducted 55 space launch operations in 2021, ranking first in the world, and intends to break prior year’s records this year as well.

The first launch of 2022 – Shiyan 13

The Long March 2D rocket carrying Shiyan 13 launched from the China National Space Administration’s (CNSA) northern Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center Tuesday (Jan. 17) at 10:35 a.m. local time (0235 GMT, or 9:35 p.m. EST on Jan. 16)

China’s Shiyan satellites have been utilised for technology demonstrations and tests since their launch in 2004. Many Shiyan missions to date have most likely had a military goal in mind. This is just speculation, no official authorities have yet confirmed nor denied the subject.

Although the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the main contractor for China’s space programme, did note that the rocket used a new 6-foot (2 metres) satellite separation device due to the mission’s unique requirements, no other information about Shiyan 13’s use or payload has been officially provided in Chinese state media.

The satellite was successfully launched into its planned orbit. Given the low temperatures at the launch location of minus 37 degrees Celsius (minus 35 degrees Fahrenheit), the launch crew added product sealing measures to the rocket to ensure a safe launch, according to an official Chinese statement. Tracking information later showed that Shiyan-13 is in a near-polar orbit of 99 degrees, ranging between 221 miles and 805 miles (357 km and 1,297 km) above Earth.

More launches planned for 2022

Other major Chinese space missions scheduled for launch in 2022 include six Long March rocket flights to build and outfit China’s space station. (More on the Long March series rockets here.)

This year, China aims to launch two more large space station modules on Long March 5B rockets from the Wenchang space center on Hainan Island. The Wentian and Mengtian pressurized modules will adding living space and scientific laboratory capabilities to the Chinese space station. Two Tianzhou cargo freighters on Long March 7 rockets and two Shenzhou crew ferry ships on Long March 2F rockets are also scheduled to launch to the Chinese space station this year. The Shenzhou-14 astronauts will be aboard Tianhe core module for the arrival of the 20-metric-ton-plus Wentian and Mengtian modules, both now expected to launch in the second half of the year, later than earlier tentative times of June and August respectively. (More on China’s Space Station Tiangong here.)

Plans for commercial spaceflight

Many Chinese private and co-owned Space launch companies are trying their hand too at developing various experimental technologies to enable commercial spaceflight. Landspace, one of China’s first private launch firms, is currently preparing to launch its new methane-fuelled Zhuque-2 rocket. Other competitors like iSpace, Space Pioneer, Expace, and CAS Space, are also conducting tests for their launch vehicles, with the end goal in mind to commercialize space travel, and also try to become the firs one to do so on an international level, against competitors like SpaceX from USA.(More on China’s complains regarding SpaceX and Starlink here.)

Q1- How many rocket launches did China conduct in 2021?

Ans- China launched a total of 55 rocket just in the year 2021, highest be any country in the year.

Q2- What is the Shiyan satellite used for?

Ans- Official statements say that Shiyan series satellites are Chinese civil surveillance satellites. But due to the fact that much detailed information about these satellites has not been made public, it is said that these might very well have hidden military applications too.

Q3- How does China launch its satellites?

Ans- China launches almost all of its satellites and spacecrafts on its flagship Long March series rockets.

Q4- What is China’s space program called?

Ans- China’s space program is called the China National Space Administration (CNSA). 

Q5- What is China’s upcoming space station named? What is the name of its core module?

Ans- China’s space station is named Tiangong, which translates to “Heavenly Palace in the Sky”. Its core module is named Tianhe. The space station is currently in process of an in-orbit assembly.

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