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Chinese military satellite launched into orbit

Posted: November 20, 2013

A Long March rocket shot a Chinese intelligence-gathering satellite into orbit Wednesday.

The Long March 4C rocket with Yaogan 19 launched at 11:31 a.m. Beijing time Wednesday. Credit: Xinhua
Consistent with China's usual communications policy for military space missions, official sources did not announce the launch in advance. China's state-run Xinhua news agency declared the launch successful.

The Yaogan 19 satellite lifted off on a Long March 4C rocket at 0331 GMT Wednesday (10:31 p.m. EST Tuesday), or 11:31 a.m. Beijing time, from the Taiyuan launching center in northern China's Shanxi province.

The three-stage rocket put the spacecraft into its targeted orbit, according to Xinhua.

The state news agency said the "remote-sensing" satellite will "conduct scientific experiments, carry out land surveys, monitor crop yields and aid in preventing and reducing natural disasters."

But Western analysts who observe China's space program believe Yaogan 19 is the next satellite in a series of high-resolution imaging spacecraft. Based on the mission's launch site, rocket configuration and target orbit, Yaogan 19 likely follows up on a pair of satellites launched in 2009 and 2012.

The "Yaogan" name is likely a cover for Chinese surveillance satellites equipped with optical and radar payloads.

The launch of Yaogan 19 marked China's 11th space launch of the year and the 65th satellite launch worldwide in 2013.

Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.