China has added to its growing network of classified Yaogan series satellites with a pair of Long March rocket launches.
A Long March 4C lifted off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwest China at 2:14 p.m. EDT on Sept. 7 (1814 GMT, or 02:14 a.m. Beijing time on Sept. 7).
The satellite has been tracked in a near-polar, 618 by 688-kilometer-altitude (384 x 428 miles) orbit by U.S. Space Force space domain monitoring.
Yaogan 33 (03) will be used for scientific experiments, land resources surveys, crop yield estimation, and disaster prevention and relief, according to Chinese state media. This is a typical description of Yaogan missions, with no details on the satellites made available.
Earlier reporting suggests the spacecraft is likely part of a series of space-based synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites. SAR satellites can obtain detailed images of the ground through clouds and during the night.
That mission followed the launch of three Yaogan 39 satellites a week earlier. The trio launched on a Long March 2D rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China at 3:36 a.m. EDT (0736 GMT; 15:36 p.m. Beijing time) on Aug. 31.
The satellites are the first of a new series and, as with the later launch, neither CASC nor Chinese state media provided many details of the satellites.
The missions were China’s 39th and 41st orbital launches of 2023. The missions sandwiched a first sea launch by Chinese commercial firm Galactic Energy using its Ceres-1 solid rocket on Sept. 5.