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China launches two new satellites from Taiyuan

China successfully launched two satellites with a Long March-4B carrier rocket early Saturday morning.(Xinhua/Wang Yongji)

HONG KONG (BNS): Just days after India's lunar mission Chandrayaan-I got underway, China has launched two new satellites from its Taiyuan Satellite Launch Centre.

State-run news agencies claimed the satellites would be used for environmental exploration but there was no official word from the space agency, which kept the launch a secret until the last moment. The two satellites launched were Shi Jian-6 Group-03 satellites: SJ-6E (Shi Jian-6E) and SJ-6F (Shi Jian-6F). They were carried by CZ-4B Chang Zheng-4B launch vehicle.

The Shi Jian-6 Group-03 were said to replace the Shi Jian-6 Group-02 launched on October 23, 2006 from the same launch center. They were built by the Shanghai Academy of Space Flight Technology and Dongfanghong Satellite Company for China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

The CZ-4B Chang Zheng launch vehicle is a tested platform which was first used in May 1999. It can launch a 2800 kg satellite into low earth orbit, developing 296000 kN at launch. It has a mass of 249000 kg and is 45.80 meters long with a diameter of 3.35 meters.

Not much has been revealed about the two satellites though the next launch is scheduled for November 2 when a CZ-3B Chang Zheng-4B would orbit the Simon Bolivor (Venesat-1) communications satellite for Venezuela, reported the Chinese agencies.

The Taiyuan Launch Center, also known as Wuzhai, is located in the Kelan Country on the northwest part of the Shanxi province. It is used for polar launches (meteorological, Earth Resources and scientific satellites). It has all the facilities like a mission command and control centre, a technical centre and telemetry, tracking and communications centers. The Chinese agencies have also reported that work on a second launch complex was already underway.

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