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New spy satellite launched by Long March rocket

Posted: August 10, 2010

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A secret Chinese reconnaissance payload successfully launched on a Long March rocket Monday, the sixth time China has sent a satellite into orbit so far this year.

The tenth Yaogan mission lifted off aboard a Long March 4C rocket at 2249 GMT (6:49 p.m. EDT) from the Taiyuan launching center in northern China's Shanxi province. It was 6:49 a.m. local time at Taiyuan.

The three-stage booster placed the spacecraft in an orbit about 380 miles high with an inclination of 97.8 degrees, according to independent tracking data.

The state-run Xinhua news agency reported Yaogan 10 will conduct scientific experiments, carry out land surveys, estimate crop yields and help respond to natural disasters.

But the Yaogan satellite is likely a military asset with a synthetic aperture radar system designed to observe locations all weather and lighting conditions.

Observers believe the Yaogan series, which began launching in 2006, is a new fleet of high-resolution optical and radar reconaissance satellites. Alternating launches from Taiyuan and the Jiuquan space base in northwestern China have orbited radar and electro-optical spy satellites.

The most recent Yaogan launch in March included three spacecraft that are believed to be naval observation satellites.

China announced Monday's launch about 24 hours in advance, a typical policy for most Chinese military payloads.

It was the 38th launch worldwide to reach orbit in 2010.