Pair of Research Satellites Launched by China

Two research satellites flew into anearly 400-mile-highorbit early Wednesday (Oct. 6) on a Long March rocket, continuing apace ofnearly one Chinese launch a week since the end of July.

A Long March 4B rocket lifted off at0049 GMT Wednesday (8:49p.m. EDT Tuesday) from the Taiyuan space center in northern China. Thelaunchoccurred a few hours before the Chang'e2 lunar orbiter arrived at the moon after a five-day journeyfrom Earth.

According to the state-run Xinhuanews agency, the 15-storyrocket carriedtwoShijian 6 satellites. U.S. military tracking data show thespacecraftorbiting about 375 miles above Earth with an inclination of about 98degrees tothe equator.

It was the 11th space launch of theyear for China. Seven ofthose missions have been since the end of July, a span of less than 10weeks.

The payloads are the fourth pair of Shijian6 satellites. The spacecraft, dubbed Shijian 6G and Shijian6H, will probethe space environment, according to Xinhua.

No other details of their missionwere released.

Shijian satellites are believed totest technologydemonstration and space research experiments. Shijian means"practice" in Chinese.

The last set of Shijian 6 satelliteslaunched in October2008. One of the craft, Shijian 6F, became the target of an orbitalrendezvous demonstration in August.

A newly-launched satellite namedShijian 12 approachedwithin 200 meters, or 656 feet, of Shijian 6F in mid-August, accordingtoamateur satellite observations and U.S. Air Force data.

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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.