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Long March rocket lifts military satellite into orbit

Posted: May 29, 2012

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China shot an intelligence-gathering Yaogan surveillance satellite into a 750-mile-high orbit Tuesday in a successful launch aboard a Long March 4C rocket.

Following standard procedures for military satellite launches, China did not announce the mission before liftoff. The state-run Xinhua news agency called the launch successful.

Liftoff of the three-stage launcher was at 0731 GMT (3:31 a.m. EDT) Tuesday, or 3:31 p.m. Beijing time. The Long March 4C rocket soared away from the Taiyuan launch base in northern China's Shanxi province, a remote site about 265 miles southwest of Beijing.

The rocket delivered the Yaogan 15 satellite into an orbit nearly 750 miles high with an inclination of 100 degrees, according to U.S. military tracking data.

"The satellite will be used to conduct scientific experiments, carry out land surveys, monitor crop yields and aid in reducing and preventing natural disasters," Xinhua reported.

But Yaogan satellites are believed by independent experts to be military spacecraft with observation and surveillance sensors.

Yaogan 15 may carry a radar payload designed for all-weather, day-and-night imaging of locations around the world. Other Yaogan satellites likely feature advanced high-resolution optical cameras.