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China launches 40th orbital rocket mission of 2021, a new record: report

China's set a new national record for rocket launches today (Oct. 27) with a satellite launch from the Gobi Desert.

The launch was China's 40th mission of 2021 (opens in new tab) and delivered the Jilin-1 Gaofen 02F remote sensing satellite into orbit on a Kuaizhou-1A rocket. Its success brings China's rocket launch rate beyond the country's previous record of 39 first set in 2018 and tied in 2020, according to SpaceNews.

Jilin-1 Gaofen 02F is a commercial remote sensing satellite and launched on the solid-fueled Kuaizhou-1A from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert. The liftoff took place at 2:19 a.m. EDT Wednesday (0619 GMT or or 2:19 p.m. local time) "and entered the planned orbit," according to state news provider Xinhua (opens in new tab).  Jilin-1 Gaofen 02F remote sensing satellite is joining a growing constellation of dozens of machines operated by Chang Guang Satellite.

Related: The latest news about China's space program

A Chinese Kuaizhou-1A rocket launches the commercial Jilin-1 Gaofen 02F remote sensing satellite into orbit from the  Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in the Gobi Desert on Oct. 27, 2021. (Image credit: CCTV)

China's increased launch pace has also meant times when multiple missions lift off within hours or days for each other. A few examples include two missions that launched three hours apart in 2019, an effort that launched four satellites in two days in 2020, and then a series of three launches in four days earlier in 2021.

Kuaizhou-1A is operated by Expace, an entity under the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp., according to SpaceNews. The launch, the 12th  of its type, was delayed temporarily due to a COVID-19 outbreak "close to the testing team," SpaceNews noted, although this is the second Kuaizhou-1A launch in a month. (The rocket was grounded in 2020 following a launch problem.)

SpaceNews notes that 36 of the 40 launches in 2021 were performed by the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. A few days before Wednesday's launch, the state-owned contractor also sent aloft a military satellite on a classified mission related to addressing orbital space junk.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.