AsecretChinese reconnaissance payload successfully launched on a Long MarchrocketMonday, the sixth time China has sent a satellite into orbit so farthis year.
Thetenth Yaoganmission liftedoff aboard a Long March 4C rocket at 2249 GMT (6:49 p.m. EDT)from theTaiyuan launching center in northern China's Shanxi province. It was6:49 a.m.local time at Taiyuan.
Thethree-stage booster placed the spacecraft in an orbit about 380 mileshigh withan inclination of 97.8 degrees, according to independent tracking data.
Thestate-run Xinhua news agency reported Yaogan 10 will conduct scientificexperiments, carry out land surveys, estimate crop yields and helprespond tonatural disasters.
Butthe Yaogansatellite is likely a militaryasset with a synthetic aperture radar system designed toobserve locationsall weather and lighting conditions.
Observersbelieve the Yaogan series, which began launching in 2006, is a newfleet ofhigh-resolution optical and radar reconaissance satellites. Alternatinglaunches from Taiyuan and the Jiuquan space base in northwestern Chinahaveorbited radar and electro-optical spy satellites.
Themostrecent Yaogan launch in March included three spacecraft that arebelieved to benaval observation satellites.
Chinaannounced Monday's launch about 24 hours in advance, a typical policyfor most Chinesemilitary payloads.
Itwas the38th launch worldwide to reach orbit in 2010.
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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 SpaceflightNow.com and on Twitter.