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China successfully launches "Probe No.1"

PLA Daily 2003-12-31

XICHANG, Dec. 30 (Xinhua) -- China launched a high-altitude orbiting satellite into the preset orbit successfully Tuesday morning, using a Long March 2C/SM carrier rocket, according to witnesses at the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China.

The satellite is the first of its kind launched by China. It is part of a space probe program carried out jointly by China and the European Space Agency (ESA).

Witnesses said the "equatorial orbiting" satellite, named Probe No. 1, was launched at 03:06 a.m. Tuesday from Xichang in Sichuan Province.

Tracking reports from the Xi'an Satellite Monitor and Control Center showed the launch was successful. The satellite had entered an orbit with a perigee of 555 kilometers and an apogee of 78,051 kilometers, and at a gradient of 28.5 degrees.

Probe No.1, the first satellite of the Double Star Project, is the highest orbiting satellite China has ever launched. The apogee of its orbit is more than twice as high as the geosynchronous orbit.

Weighing 350 kilometers, the satellite is expected to work in space for 18 months.

Proposed by Chinese scientists in 1997, the Double Star Project is the first China-Europe joint satellite probe program. This is also the first time that China cooperated with developed countries with its own space exploration programs.

The design and manufacture of the platform and the assembly of Probe No. 1 were carried out by the Space Technology Institute of the China Aerospace Technology Corporation. Its probe equipment were developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and eight European scientific research institutions.

Probe No. 1 will be followed by Probe No. 2, a "polar orbiting" satellite that is scheduled to go up next year. They will probe important areas of two magnetic fields of Earth space which have never been covered by any satellites, comprising the Earth's magnetic field, ionosphere and middle to high layers of atmosphere.

The system will be capable of probing, in three dimensions, the incidence and development of space storms, to help improve safety for space activities.

The launch vehicle, developed by the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology under the China Aerospace Technology Corporation, is the improved version of Long March 2C carrier rocket.

The launch was the 75th flight of the Long March carrier rocket and also the 33rd consecutive success of the Long March series of carrier rocket since October 10, 1996.

The Xichang Satellite Launch Center adopted a new procedure in Tuesday's event, which shortened the satellite's testing period.

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