Chinese airspace was busy Monday as the nation recovered and launched two separate return satellites likely carrying a wide array of experiments, demonstrations, and reconnaissance payloads for the nation's government, military, and research industries.
The capsules were part of China's 30-year old FSW program that uses recoverable spacecraft to loft material into orbit for temporary missions that range across a variety of fields.
Coming back from space on Monday morning was an FSW satellite launched on August 2 from the Jiuquan launch center nestled in northwest China's Gobi desert. State media reported the craft landed after its 27-day stint in orbit, marking the 20th successful recovery in the history of the series.
"The satellite completed all its tasks including space surveying and scientific tests," China's People's Daily newspaper said.
Official reports indicate that homecoming was followed in the afternoon hours by the liftoff of another FSW satellite aboard a two-stage Long March 2D rocket from Jiuquan. According to state-run news sources, the launcher delivered its cargo to the planned orbit around Earth.
This flight is the 22nd launch for the FSW program dating back to the mid-1970's, though the spacecraft design has undergone several updates to allow for additional capability and reliability.
"The satellite will carry out a series of jobs on scientific research, land surveying, mapping, and (technological) tests," People's Daily reported.
Such back-to-back missions were believed to have been conducted in August and September of 2004, though the reasoning behind the scheduling is unknown due to the secretive nature of the Chinese space program.
The Long March family now stands at 45 consecutive successful launches dating back to 1996, and China has now launched variants of the booster 87 times over the past 35 years.
China will soon turn its attention to the nation's second human spaceflight slated for October. During that mission, a crew of two Chinese military pilots will embark on a voyage that could last several days up to a week.