China has 14 new satellites in orbit following its fifth launch of 2023.
A Long March 2D rocket lifted off from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern China on Saturday (Jan. 14) at 10:14 p.m. EST (0314 GMT or 11:14 a.m. Beijing time on Jan. 15). Insulation tiles fell from the rocket as pink and purple exhaust propelled it above the frosty surrounding hills of Taiyuan.
Aboard were 14 satellites for a range of customers. Six of the payloads were Jilin-1 optical and infrared remote sensing satellites for a commercial satellite firm spun off from an institute under the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS). Changguang Satellite Technology now has more than 70 satellites in orbit and aims to build a constellation of 300 satellites by 2025.
Also aboard were Qilu-2 and Qilu-3, which Chinese state media described as high-resolution optical and wide-swath optical satellites, respectively.
Three further satellites were Golden Bauhinia Satellite 3, 4 and 6, developed by the Hong Kong Aerospace Science and Technology Group. The first two are optical remote sensing satellites, while the latter is an optical test satellite for a planned constellation for agricultural use.
The final three satellites were Luojia-3 (01), a remote sensing satellite for Wuhan University that was manufactured by state-owned DFH Satellite; the BUPT-1 scientific test satellite for Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications and developed by the commercial satellite maker Spacety; and the technical test satellite Tianzhi-2D for CAS's Institute of Software, developed by Hunan Hangsheng Satellite Technology.
The Long March rocket for the mission was developed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC), a giant state-owned space and defense contractor. CASC says it plans to launch more than 60 times across 2023.