At thirty minutes past midnight in the early hours of Friday, China added another active component to its expanding line of satellites orbiting the earth with the successful launch of its Zhongxing-2E mission.
The dispatch base was the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwestern Sichuan province, a facility that serves as one of the premier sites for China’s space program workers to carry out a range of aerospace missions for civil, research and military purposes.
Propelling the Zhongxing-2E satellite into outer space was a Chang Zheng (‘Long March’) rocket, part of the country’s longstanding rocket design family that initiated operation with the launch of Long March 1 in 1970.
Overseeing the mission is China Satellite Communications (CSC), a state-owned enterprise that has expanded since its founding in 2001 to provide a wide variety of satellite-based services for both domestic and international markets. CSC is one of the main subsidiaries of the national space program contractor, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.
At the time of the 00:30 liftoff, the total mass amounted to 5.4 tons with a total vehicle height of 56 meters.
The Zhongxing-2E has now reportedly separated from the Long March carrier rocket and has entered its present orbit. The satellite is expected to carry out a total service life of about 15 years, during which time it will provide high-definition image broadcasting and wireless data communications.
The frequency of new satellite launches conducted by China’s space program has been accelerating in recent years, with domestic media outlet CNMO News reporting that 2021 is expected to be the first time the country exceeds 40 launches.
News of the successful launch spread quickly on domestic social media, trending on the list of most-discussed topics on China’s Twitter-like platform Weibo.
In a post by one popular space-themed account, top space mission operator Zhang Runhong can be seen saying, “today is a good day, we also now have a big rocket for the Olympic athletes!”
Of the previously unannounced mission, another user wrote: “It was a quietly successful launch! The great motherland is always doing great things casually.”