China launched the Ziyuan 1 (02E) Earth resources observation satellite and a small amateur radio satellite on Saturday, marking the country's 53rd orbital launch of the year.
The China National Space Administration mission's Long March 4C rocket lifted off from Taiyuan, north China, at 10:11 p.m. Dec. 25 (0311 GMT, 11:11 a.m. local time Dec. 26). Insulation tiles fell from the rocket as it rose into clear blue skies above the launch complex.
Ziyuan 1 (02E) is the latest in a series of remote sensing satellites. It carries infrared, near-infrared and hyperspectral cameras to help survey China's geological environment and search for minerals, according to Chinese state media.
Also aboard was a small satellite with a radio payload. Beijing’s 101 Middle School was involved in the satellite project, which is also part of a China-Africa cooperation science outreach project called "Xiwang" (Hope) targeted at teenagers, according to Chinese media.
2021 has been China's busiest year for launches so far. The country’s previous most active years were 2018 and 2020, which saw 39 launches conducted.
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Andrew is a freelance space journalist with a focus on reporting on China's rapidly growing space sector. He began writing for Space.com in 2019 and writes for SpaceNews, IEEE Spectrum, National Geographic, Sky & Telescope, New Scientist and others. Andrew first caught the space bug when, as a youngster, he saw Voyager images of other worlds in our solar system for the first time. Away from space, Andrew enjoys trail running in the forests of Finland. You can follow him on Twitter @AJ_FI.