China kicks off 2020 with mystery satellite launch: report

The first rocket launch of 2020 by China's space agency (opens in new tab) was a mystery payload, with state-run media and independent analysts making different claims about the goal of the mission.

Chinese media said a Long March 3B rocket sent a satellite into space from Xichang Space Center in Sichuan province (southwest China) at 10:20 a.m. EST Tuesday (1520 GMT or 11:20 p.m. Beijing time.) 

Footage from Chinese media outlet CCTV (opens in new tab) shows the rocket soaring into a black sky, with orange flames spurting out below. Media said the satellite was sent into geostationary orbit 22,000 miles (36,000 kilometers) above Earth.

Video: Watch China's Long March 3B mystery launch soar (opens in new tab)

A Chinese Long March 3B rocket launched the TJS 5 experimental satellite into orbit from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center on Jan. 7, 2020.  (Image credit: China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation)

"It will be used in communication, radio, television and data transmission, as well as [a] high throughput technology test," said CCTV in a statement. "Throughput" refers to the amount of data moved from one place to another in a given time period. The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation declared the mission a success, according to a translation of its website (opens in new tab).

Since China usually identifies who owns or will use its satellites, and the country has remained silent about this latest launch, analysts theorize that perhaps the TJS series may have a military aspect to them.

According to SpaceflightNow, in 2017 the TJS 2 satellite launched with no specific announcement about its mission. At the time, analysts said that it could provide services such as missile detection, but this has not been confirmed.

China is expected to deploy more than 40 satellites in 2020. The last quarter of 2019 was very busy for this country, as it began to launch multiple missions within days or hours of each other. In one case, the country launched two rockets only six hours apart, at the same launching site.

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

All About Space Holiday 2019

Need more space? Subscribe to our sister title "All About Space" Magazine (opens in new tab) for the latest amazing news from the final frontier! (Image credit: All About Space)
(opens in new tab)

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. Elizabeth's reporting includes an exclusive with Office of the Vice-President of the United States, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and (soon) a Bachelor of History from Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon: https://qoto.org/@howellspace

  • rod
    Admin said:
    China's first rocket launch of 2020 was a mystery payload, with Chinese state media and independent analysts making different claims about the goal of the mission.

    China kicks off 2020 with mystery satellite launch: report : Read more

    "Since China usually identifies who owns or will use its satellites, and the country has remained silent about this latest launch, analysts theorize that perhaps the TJS series may have a military aspect to them."

    Interesting.
    Reply