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China completes first orbital sea launch of LM-11 WEY vehicle

The vehicle has a length of 20.8 meters and a liftoff mass of 58,000 kg. At launch it develops 120.000 kg/f, launching a 350 kg cargo into a 700 km SSO.

China has successfully conducted its first orbital sea launch on Wednesday, with a Long March 11 rocket lifting off from a floating platform in the Yellow Sea off the eastern province of Shandong.

The launch, carrying seven satellites into orbit, took place at 04:06:01 UTC.

This launch was named ‘LM-11 WEY’ after a strategic partnership between WEY, a premium SUV marque of Great Wall Motor China Space Foundation and China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) that founded a joint technology innovation hub on April 24, 2019, which is going to help the SUV maker achieve breakthroughs in R&D and manufacturing areas.

Onboard the LM-11 rocket were the Bufeng-1A and Bufeng-1B developed by the Chinese Academy of Spaceflight Technology. The two satellites will test measurements of surface sea wind velocity fields via small satellites on formation flying.

The Xiaoxiang-1-04 (or SpaceTY) is a 6U CubeSat for Earth imaging. The small satellite captures 5-meter resolution images with a swath of 80 km.

Another satellite on board is the Tianqi-3 (or Tao Xingzhi) experimental LEO comsat. The satellite also carries a camera for educational purposes and is named after educator and reformer Tao Xingzhi that devoted his life to promoting mass education in China, especially education in rural areas, in the first half of the 20th century. Tianqi-2 will be launched on the first Jielong-1 launch scheduled for late June.

Also on board are two Tianxiang satellites (China Electronics Technology Group Corporation/CETGC) – Zhongdianwangtong-1A and Zhongdianwangtong-1B. The satellites will test small satellite Ka-band communication interlinks.

Finally, the Jilin-1 High-Resolution 03A is a new satellite for the Jilin-1 EO satellite constellation. With a mass of 42 kg, the satellite captures images with a 1 meter and a swath of 17 km from 579 km high operational orbit.

The Jilin-1 constellation was developed in China’s Jilin Province and is the country’s first self-developed remote sensing satellite for commercial use. It consists of several satellites that will provide data to commercial clients to help them forecast and mitigate geological disasters, as well as shorten the timescale for the exploration of natural resources.

Jilin, one of the country’s oldest industrial bases, is developing its satellite industry in a new economic drive. According to NASA, the province plans to launch 60 satellites by 2020 and 138 by 2030.

The first phase of the constellation saw the launch of the first three Jilin-1 satellites (that are also known as Lingqiao-1). Jilin 1-01 and Jilin 1-02 were launched on October 7, 2015, by a Long March-2D launch vehicle out of the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, while Jilin 1-03 was launched on January 9, 2017, using a Kuaizhou-1A solid launch vehicle.

Jilin 1-04 to Jilin 1-06 were launched on November 21, 2017, by a Long March-6 rocket from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center.

Jilin 1-07 and -08 were launched on January 19, 2018, while Jilin-1 Hyperspectral-01 and Jilin-1 Hyperspectral-02 were launched on January 21, 2019.

Between 2018 and 2019 there are plans to have 16 satellites in orbit, completing a remote sensing network that will cover the entire globe and will be capable of a three to four hours update in the data provided.

From 2020, the plans point to a 60 satellites orbital constellation capable of a 30 minutes update in the data provided.

From 2030, the Jilin constellation will have 138 satellites in orbit, forming an all-day, all-weather, full spectrum acquisition segment data and a capability of observing any global arbitrary point with a 10 minutes revisit capability, providing the world’s highest spatial resolution and time resolution space information products.

The Long March-11 (Chang Zheng-11) is a small solid-fueled quick-reaction launch vehicle developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT) with the goal to provide an easy to operate quick-reaction launch vehicle, that can remain in storage for long period and to provide a reliable launch on short notice.

LM-11 is a four-stage solid-fueled launch vehicle equipped with a reaction control system on the fourth stage.

The vehicle has a length of 20.8 meters, 2.0 meters in diameter and a liftoff mass of 58,000 kg. At launch it develops 120.000 kg/f, launching a 350 kg cargo into a 700 km SSO. The CZ-11 can use two types of fairing with 1.6 meters or 2.0 meters.

LM-11’s first launch took place on September 25, 2015, when successfully orbited the Pujiang-1 and the three Tianwang small sats from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center.

The maritime launch platform used in this launch is owned and run by an unnamed Chinese maritime engineering. The platform is roughly 110 x 80 m in size, being equipped with a 15.5 m high TEL, and was anchored at 34.90 deg. N, 121.19 deg. E.