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China Launches Military Satellite 1 Month After Rocket Failure

'Gold Rocket' Long March Rocket Launch
A Chinese Long March rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China, delivering a navigation satellite into space. The Long March 3A rocket launched at 5:44 a.m. local time on July 27, 2011. (Image credit: China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology)

A Chinese communications satellite, potentially designed to relay messages between Chinese military forces, blasted off on a Long March rocket Sunday.

The Chinasat 1A spacecraft launched at 1633 GMT (12:33 p.m. EDT) Sunday from the Xichang space base in southwestern China's Sichuan province. It was 12:33 a.m. local time at the launch site.

A Long March 3B/E rocket lifted the 11,500-pound satellite into a geosynchronous transfer orbit with a high point of more than 22,200 miles, a low point of almost 120 miles and an inclination of 27 degrees, according to U.S. military tracking data. [Photos: China's First Space Station]

China didn't announce the launch in advance, but state media reported after the flight that the payload will provide "high-quality voice communication, broadcast and data transmission services for users across China," according to the Xinhua news agency.

Western analysts believe Chinasat 1A will serve the Chinese military.

Xinhua reported the spacecraft was manufactured by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. The satellite could be based on the DFH-4 spacecraft bus, China's most powerful standardized platform for communications missions.

Sunday's blastoff was the first Chinese space launch since the Aug. 18 failure of a different version of the Long March rocket.

It was the 10th space launch attempt by China this year, and nine of those missions have been successful.

Copyright 2011, all rights reserved.

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Stephen Clark

Stephen Clark is the Editor of Spaceflight Now, a web-based publication dedicated to covering rocket launches, human spaceflight and exploration. He joined the Spaceflight Now team in 2009 and previously wrote as a senior reporter with the Daily Texan. You can follow Stephen's latest project at and on Twitter.