China has launched a new meteorological satellite to boost rainfall monitoring.
A Long March 4B rocket lifted off from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center at 9:36 p.m. EDT on Saturday (April 15; 0136 GMT, or 9:36 a.m. Beijing time on April 16). Insulation tiles fell away from the rocket as it climbed into clear skies above the spaceport in the Gobi Desert.
The satellite was later cataloged by U.S. Space Force domain tracking in a near-circular orbit with an altitude of roughly 255 miles (410 kilometers) and inclined by 50 degrees.
The Fengyun 3G satellite will provide data for weather forecasting and high-precision rainfall monitoring, disaster prevention and mitigation, climate change response and ecological conservation, according to Chinese state media outlet Xinhua.
The flight path of the Long March 4B, from northwest China, saw rocket stage drop zones both over inland China and in seas north of Taiwan. The latter was the source of a dispute, with Taiwan claiming an area of airspace would be closed for three days due to China's launch, Reuters reported. The airspace closure was later apparently revised to last a matter of minutes covering the period around the planned launch.
The issue was reported by some outlets as a "no-fly zone," which refers to establishing military control over an area of airspace. The closure was a notice of navigational safety matters, commonly issued by countries when conducting orbital launches and indicating areas in which rocket stages will fall once expended.
Tensions between the two nations were already high, with China last week conducting military drills around Taiwan.
The mission was China's 17th orbital launch of the year. The country plans to launch at least 200 spacecraft on more than 60 launches across 2023.
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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.