Chinese solid rocket launches mysterious Chuangxin 16 satellite (video)

China launched a small solid rocket on Monday (Aug. 22), spawning a minor mystery about the number of satellites on the flight.

The Kuaizhou-1A solid rocket lifted off at 10:36 p.m. EDT on Monday (0236 GMT, or 10:36 a.m. Beijing time on Aug. 23) from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China.

The launch successfully sent the Chuangxin 16 satellite into a near circular orbit at an altitude of roughly 366 miles (590 kilometers). The satellite was developed by the Innovation Academy for Microsatellites of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (IAMCAS). 

Related: The latest news about China's space program

A Kuaizhou-1A solid rocket liftoffs from Xichang spaceport on Aug. 22, 2022.

A Kuaizhou-1A solid rocket lifts off from China's Xichang spaceport on Aug. 22, 2022. (Image credit: OurSpace/CNSA)

Chinese state media provided only a vague description of its mission as mainly for "scientific experiments and verification of new technologies."

U.S. Space Force tracking efforts picked up one new object in orbit corresponding with the launch as of Aug. 25. That object has the international designation 2022-102A. 

However, a post-launch report from IAMCAS states that the mission was a dual-satellite launch involving the Chuangxin 16 A and B satellites. The discrepancy may be explained by two satellites that are currently joined but will later separate as part of their mission, or it could suggest that a second satellite will join the already launched Chuangxin 16 in orbit on a later flight.

The launch was the 16th mission of a Kuaizhou-1A solid rocket, which is operated by Expace, a spinoff from the giant state-owned Chinese space and defense contractor CASIC. It was the first Kuaizhou-1A launch from Xichang, which means the rocket has now launched from three different Chinese spaceports and provides new options for launch.

The mission was China’s 33rd orbital launch of 2022, which is expected to be China’s busiest year so far for launches.

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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 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.