China launches mysterious Shiyan-20C satellite to orbit (video)

China sent a classified experimental satellite to orbit on Friday (Oct. 28), continuing a busy October for the nation.

The Shiyan-20C spacecraft lifted off on Friday at 9:01 p.m. EDT (0101 GMT and 9:01 a.m. Beijing time on Oct. 29), riding a Long March 2D rocket into the sky from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center in northwestern China.

The 2,650-pound (1,200 kilograms) Shiyan-20C was successfully inserted into an orbit about 435 miles (700 kilometers) above Earth, reported, citing the China Aerospace Science Corporation. 

Related: The latest news about China's space program

A Long March 2D rocket launches China's Shiyan-20C satellite to orbit on Oct. 28, 2022.

A Long March 2D rocket launches China's Shiyan-20C satellite to orbit on Oct. 28, 2022. (Image credit: CCTV)

"The satellite will be mainly used for in-orbit verification of new technologies such as space environment monitoring," the state-run media outlet Xinhua wrote.

This vague description is fairly standard for the Shiyan satellites, whose name translates as "experiment." 

The Shiyan constellation is a relatively large one, consisting of 22 spacecraft now that Shiyan-20C is aloft, according to The satellites likely do a variety of jobs and test a range of new technologies.

China has now launched six orbital missions this month, including a very high-profile effort today (Oct. 31).

That most recent liftoff sent the Mengtian module skyward atop a Long March 5B rocket. Mengtian is the third and final piece of China's T-shaped Tiangong space station. Its arrival, expected later tonight, will mark the end of Tiangong's assembly phase and the beginning of full operations for the orbital outpost.

Editor's note: This story was corrected at 5 p.m. EDT on Oct. 31 to attribute as a source. The original version erroneously attributed Spaceflight Now.

Mike Wall is the author of "Out There" (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or on Facebook.  

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.