China launches military satellites into orbit after delay

China sent new military satellites to orbit Wednesday (Nov. 3) for an undisclosed mission, following a lengthy launch delay.

State media reported the second cluster of Yaogan-32 satellites flew to space from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center near the Gobi Desert at 3:43 a.m. EDT (0743 GMT or 3:43 p.m. local time.)

"Entering the scheduled orbit, the launch mission was a complete success," said the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) in mission report machine-translated into English.

The satellites went to orbit aboard a Long March 2C rocket, the same booster type that launched the previous set of Yaogan-32 satellites to space in 2018. At the time, state media provider Xinhua said the satellites would be "used for electromagnetic environment surveys and other related technology tests," according to

Related: The latest news about China's space program

A Long March 2C rocket launched remote-sensing Yaogan-32 family satellites from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on Nov. 3, 2021. (Image credit: CASC)

State media had much the same description for the new set of satellites launching to space, with Space China saying the Yaogan-32 series would "carry out electromagnetic environment detection and related technical tests." Xinhua's short news report, though, did not have a description of the mission.

The mission was originally set to launch in mid-September, but was delayed for undisclosed reasons.

China operates its space program independently of other countries and has a tradition of only mentioning launches after the fact. In recent months, the country has come under criticism from senior NASA leadership for its activities in space, including allowing a large rocket to fall uncontrolled from orbit. (No one, ultimately, was injured.)

Last week, China reported it had set a new record of orbital launches in 2021, with 40 missions put into space.

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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: