China has successfully launched a Long March 3B rocket from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre, placing the military Zhongxing-2C (ChinaSat-2C) satellite into orbit.
The launch went ahead at 00:25 Beijing time on Wednesday (16:25 UTC Tuesday), marking China's 13th in 2015 and 216th Long March flight overall.
Little is known about the satellite itself, due its military nature. Previous satellites in the class have been apparently designed for military communications, providing secure voice and data communication for the People's Liberation Army.
China's busy 2015
Tuesday's launch was China’s 13th in 2015, following missions involving four Beidou global positioning satellites, the Gaofen-8, Gaofen-9 and Yaogan Weixing-27 earth observation satellites, a classified ka-band communication test satellite, the Long March 6 debut, lofting 20 small satellites, and the maiden flight of the solid-fuelled Long March 11.
In October Jilin-1, China's first self-developed commercial remote sensing satellite, APSTAR-9, developed and launched on behalf of a major regional satellite fleet operator, and the Tianhui-1C Earth observation satellite were put into orbit.
Earlier in the year, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the main contractor for China’s space activities, announced it would perform up to 20 separate launches in 2015, meaning a hectic final quarter of activity.
In December China will launch its DAMPE probe to hunt for dark matter.
The launch was the 216th of China’s Long March rocket families. The first took place in April 1970, when a Long March 1 rocket put China’s first satellite, Dong Fang Hong-1, into orbit.
Return to human spaceflight in 2016
China will make a return to human spaceflight with its first crewed space mission since 2013. Shenzhou-11 will liftoff from Jiuquan and will dock with China’s upcoming second space lab, Tiangong-2, which will be launched in advance of the taikonaut mission.
Next year will also see the new heavy-lift Long March 5 and medium-lift Long March 7 rockets make their debut launches. The two are designed to launch and service China’s future space station, as well as perform a lunar sample return mission in 2017.
Along with DAMPE seeking to detect dark matter, China will launch three further scientific satellites within the next year to perform quantum science experiments, research space life science, and observe black holes, neutron stars and other phenomena.
In October Chinese state media revealed discussions on potential deep space exploration, including missions to Mars, Jupiter, asteroids, and, in the longer term, a crewed deep space mission.