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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.

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.


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Elizabeth Howell
Elizabeth Howell is a contributing writer for who is one of the few Canadian journalists to report regularly on space exploration. She is pursuing a Ph.D. part-time in aerospace sciences (University of North Dakota) after completing an M.Sc. (space studies) at the same institution. She also holds a bachelor of journalism degree from Carleton University. Besides writing, Elizabeth teaches communications at the university and community college level. To see her latest projects, follow Elizabeth on Twitter at @HowellSpace.