China Recovers One Satellite, Launches Another

Chinese airspace was busyMonday as the nation recovered and launched two separate return satelliteslikely carrying a wide array of experiments, demonstrations, and reconnaissancepayloads for the nation's government, military, and research industries.

The capsules were part ofChina's 30-year old FSW program that uses recoverable spacecraft to loftmaterial into orbit for temporary missions that range across a variety offields.

Coming back from space onMonday morning was an FSW satellite launched on August 2 from the Jiuquanlaunch center nestled in northwest China's Gobi desert. State media reportedthe craft landed after its 27-day stint in orbit, marking the 20th successfulrecovery in the history of the series.

"The satellitecompleted all its tasks including space surveying and scientific tests,"China's People's Daily newspaper said.

Official reports indicatethat homecoming was followed in the afternoon hours by the liftoff of anotherFSW satellite aboard a two-stage Long March 2D rocket from Jiuquan. Accordingto state-run news sources, the launcher delivered its cargo to the plannedorbit around Earth.

This flight is the 22ndlaunch for the FSW program dating back to the mid-1970's, though the spacecraftdesign has undergone several updates to allow for additional capability andreliability.

"The satellite willcarry out a series of jobs on scientific research, land surveying, mapping, and(technological) tests," People's Daily reported.

Such back-to-back missionswere believed to have been conducted in August and September of 2004, thoughthe reasoning behind the scheduling is unknown due to the secretive nature ofthe Chinese space program.

The Long March family nowstands at 45 consecutive successful launches dating back to 1996, and China hasnow launched variants of the booster 87 times over the past 35 years.

China will soon turn itsattention to the nation's second human spaceflight slated for October. Duringthat mission, a crew of two Chinese military pilots will embark on a voyagethat could last several days up to a week.

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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.