China on Friday launched two rockets from different spaceports in just six hours in a busy day that also included the successful landing of its longest astronaut mission to date.
The China National Space Administration launched the two missions from Friday, April 15, when a Long March 3B rocket lifted off from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center carrying the Zhongxing 6D communications satellites. Liftoff took place at 8:00 p.m. Beijing time (8:00 a.m. EDT or 12:00 p.m. GMT) from the launch site, which is based in southwest China’s Sichuan province.
“The Zhongxing 6D satellite is a special transmission satellite for radio and television programs developed by the Fifth Academy of China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation,” officials from the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation (CASC) said in a statement, according to a statement from Google. Translation. The satellite will replace China’s older China Star 6A satellite and provide high-definition video, radio and television broadcasting services across the South China Sea, Southeast Asia and Pacific island countries, officials said. of CASC.
Related: China’s Long March rocket family: history and photos
Just over six hours later, at 2:16 p.m. EDT (6:16 p.m. GMT or 2:16 a.m. Saturday Beijing time), a Long March 4C rocket launched a new atmosphere-monitoring satellite into orbit from the center. Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center.
The satellite uses a laser-based radar system, or lidar, and is designed to monitor local air quality to support “China’s atmospheric environment monitoring, global climate change research, l ‘crop yield estimation and agricultural disaster monitoring’, according to the Chinese government. Xinhua News Service.
Both launches took place on the eve of the successful landing of Chinese astronaut Shenzhou 13, which brought three astronauts home from the core module of the country’s Tiangong space station, Tianhe. The landing, which took place at 9:56 a.m. Beijing time on Saturday (9:56 p.m. EDT on April 15 or 03:56 GMT on April 16), ended a six-month mission to Tiangong for astronauts from Shenzhou 13 Zhai Zhigang, Wang Yaping and Ye Guangfu. .
The astronauts spent 182 days aboard the main module of Tiangong Tianhe on a mission that included two spacewalks, including the first in China by a female astronaut, as well as more than 20 scientific experimentation and outreach programs.