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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 NASASpaceflight.com.

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

Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for Space.com who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is the author or co-author of several books on space exploration. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. from the University of North Dakota in Space Studies, and an M.Sc. from the same department. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University in Canada, where she began her space-writing career in 2004. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level, and for government training schools. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @howellspace.