Coronavirus isn't stopping China from launching rockets

China resumed satellite launches Wednesday (Feb. 19) amid the ongoing coronavirus outbreak, lofting a Long March 2D rocket in the country's first launch since the Chinese New Year.

The Long March 2D rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in the country's Sichuan province at 4:07 p.m. EST (2107 GMT, 5:07 a.m. local time), and the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC) confirmed the launch roughly 40 minutes after the rocket left Earth, SpaceNews reported.

Aboard the rocket were four Xin Jishu Shiyan test satellites called XJS-C, XJS-D, XJS-E and XJS-F, all of which went into their planned orbits. The satellites, which were built by CASC subsidiaries, will test new technologies for Earth observations and communicating with one another, CASC said, according to SpaceNews.

Video: China launches 4 experimental satellites atop Long March 2D rocket
More: Chinese rocket builders in quarantine to avoid coronavirus exposure

The ongoing coronavirus outbreak originated in the Wuhan area and has affected infected tens of thousands of people worldwide, sparking some quarantine measures in China and other countries.

The launch took place just a few days after Wu Yansheng, chairman of CASC, examined Chinese launch preparation facilities to see how the workers were handling coronavirus containment procedures, such as wearing masks, SpaceNews reported

The workers expressed some concerns about food supply, but overall, CASC was deemed successful in following measures such as adjusting workshifts and providing reserves of antiseptics, state-sponsored news media outlet Space China said in a report translated into English using translation software. Senior space leadership (including people from CASC) also met on Feb. 13 to discuss lessons learned from the coronavirus outbreak and how to protect workers in the future, Space China said in a separate translated report.

China's Long March 2D rocket lifts off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on Feb. 19, 2020, carrying four Xin Jishu Shiyan test satellites to orbit. (Image credit: CASC)

CASC has launched four missions in 2020 and is planning more than 40 this year. In 2019, China performed some rocket launches at the same facility with as little as 6 hours' separation between launches; that's a very fast turnaround time compared with the usual launch pace in other countries.

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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: