China lofts 4 satellites into orbit with its second launch of 2020

A Chinese Long March 2D rocket launched four satellites, two for China and two for Argentinian company Satellogic, into orbit from the Taiyun Satellite Launch Center on Jan. 15, 2020.
A Chinese Long March 2D rocket launched four satellites, two for China and two for Argentinian company Satellogic, into orbit from the Taiyun Satellite Launch Center on Jan. 15, 2020. (Image credit: China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation)

China successfully sent four satellites into orbit early on Wednesday (Jan. 15) with the country's second launch of 2020.

The Long March 2D rocket launch took place at 10:53 a.m. local time Wednesday  (0253 GMT, or 9:22 p.m. EST Jan. 14) at the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center in northern China.

Footage released by Chinese state news outlet CCTV shows the exhaust patterns (opens in new tab) created by hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide propellant as the Long March 2D lifts off. Moments later, insulation tiles are seen falling away (opens in new tab) as the rocket climbs into the sky.

Video: Watch China's 2nd rocket launch of 2020 blast off! (opens in new tab)

The mission is China's second of the year so far, following the launch of a mystery payload on Jan. 7 (opens in new tab). It is the third launch globally as SpaceX kicked off the year by sending 60 Starlink satellites into orbit on Jan. 6.

The largest satellite on Wednesday's launch was the Jilin-1 (Wideband-1) Earth observation satellite. The satellite is part of a planned constellation of imaging satellites being developed by Chang Guang Satellite Technology Co., Ltd., a commercial spinoff from the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The satellite, also known as Red Flag-1 H9, will provide super wide coverage with resolution better than 1 meter.

Also aboard were two imaging satellites for Satellogic, an Argentina-based company with its own plans to build a commercial low Earth orbit Earth observation constellation. ÑuSat 7 and 8 are also known as Sophie and Marie, named for French mathematician Sophie Germain and physicist Marie Curie (opens in new tab).

The final payload was a small satellite named Tianqi-5 for Internet of Things (opens in new tab) communications tests for a Chinese commercial small satellite company.

Satellogic prepares its two small Earth observation satellites Preparing ÑuSat 7 and 8 (nicknamed Sophie and Marie) for launch on a Long March 2D rocket. (Image credit: Satellogic)

China is planning to launch as many as 50 times in 2020 (opens in new tab), following on from its 34 launches in 2019.

Major missions include sending an orbiter and rover to Mars in late July or early August, and the Chang’e-5 lunar sample return mission late in the year. Both missions will use the huge Long March 5 which recently returned to flight.

Also expected is a test launch of a rocket designed to lift China's space station modules into low Earth orbit. This test will carry an uncrewed next-generation spacecraft for human spaceflight.

 Follow Andrew Jones at @AJ_FI. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom or Facebook

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Andrew Jones
Contributing Writer

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 (opens in new tab).