China sends classified satellite into space during first launch of 2022

China executed its first launch of 2022 with a classified mission, the Shiyan 13 test satellite.

The Long March 2D rocket carrying Shiyan 13 launched from the China National Space Administration's (CNSA) northern Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center Tuesday (Jan. 17) at 10:35 a.m. local time (0235 GMT, or 9:35 p.m. EST on Jan. 16)

The satellite was sent successfully into its "predetermined orbit," CNSA said in a statement machine-translated from Chinese. The statement added that given low temperatures of minus 37 degrees Celsius (minus 35 Fahrenheit) at the launch site, the launch team added "product sealing measures" to the rocket to assure a safe launch.

Related: The latest news about China's space program

A Chinese Long March 2D rocket carrying Shiyan 13 lifts off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center. (Image credit: CCTV)

"The Experiment No. 13 satellite is mainly used to carry out space environment detection and related technology experiments," CNSA added of the mission, saying it plans "more than 40 space launch missions" for 2022. China performed a record-breaking 55 launches in 2021.

Tracking information later showed that Shiyan-13 is in a near-polar orbit of 99 degrees, ranging between 221 miles and 805 miles (357 km and 1,297 km) above Earth, SpaceNews reported.

"Shiyan are understood to be a series of test satellites, which first launched in 2004," SpaceNews added. "China currently has more than ten Shiyan satellites in sun-synchronous and geosynchronous orbits."

No other information about Shiyan 13's use or payload has been provided in Chinese state media, although the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the main contractor for China's space program, did note that the rocket used a new 6-foot (2 meters) satellite separation device due to unique requirements of the mission.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: