China launches 3 more spy satellites to orbit (video)

China just sent three more reconnaissance satellites to orbit.

A Long March 2D rocket lifted off from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southern China on Friday (Oct. 14) at 3:12 p.m. EDT (1912 GMT; 3:12 a.m. on Oct. 15 Beijing time).

The rocket apparently carried three satellites in China's Yaogan 36 series. The spacecraft were successfully deployed into their designated orbit, according to Chinese media reports.

Related: The latest news about China's space program

A Long March 2D rocket launches three of China's Yaogan 36 remote-sensing satellites to orbit on Oct. 14, 2022.

A Long March 2D rocket launches three of China's Yaogan 36 remote-sensing satellites to orbit on Oct. 14, 2022. (Image credit: CCTV+)

It's unclear exactly what the newly launched trio will do; China reveals few details about the Yaogan satellites, whose name translates as "remote sensing." 

Chinese state media have said that the spacecraft gather scientific data, helping researchers conduct land surveys and monitor agriculture production, among other tasks. However, Western experts believe that Yaogan satellites also collect imagery for use by the Chinese military.

There's likely to be considerable diversity in Yaogan job descriptions; China has launched dozens of the spacecraft over the past few years, including 20 since March alone.

The Yaogan 36 launch was part of a busy day in spaceflight. Also on Friday, SpaceX's Crew-4 astronaut mission came home from the International Space Station after a 5.5-month orbital stay.

And a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket is scheduled to loft a communications satellite for the European company Eutelsat on Friday night at 11:26 p.m. EDT (0326 GMT on Oct. 15). You can watch that liftoff live here at when the time comes, courtesy of SpaceX.

In addition, Russia was expected to launch a mysterious military satellite called EMKA-3 on Friday afternoon. That apparently didn't happen, however; EMKA-3 now may go up over the weekend.

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.