China’s First 2020 Launch has Mystery Satellite Payload

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China Launches a Long March 3B with a Mystery Satellite Payload to Kick-Off 2020.

China’s space agency launched its first rocket of 2020 last Tuesday (Jan 7th). The payload, however, remains a mystery. In fact, there’s some disagreement between the official state-run media and independent analysts as to what exactly the goal of this mystery satellite payload is.

You can watch the launch footage here:

China’s Story

The Chinese state-run media says that they launched a Long March 3b rocket with a satellite payload into orbit at 11:20 pm (Beijing time) from Xichang Space Center in the southwest province of Sichuan. In case you were wondering, yes. That is the same space center that we reported on back in November. In that feel-good story, tweets were coming in showing pictures of fiery, toxic rocket fuel and debris raining down onto a small village downrange of the launch center. So far, no such reports exist regarding last week’s launch. But the communities downrange of the launch site have dealt with the Chinese space agency’s recklessness in this regard for years now.

With that in mind, let’s see what they have to say about this mystery satellite payload. In a statement, CCTV (a Chinese media outlet) said, “It will be used in communication, radio, television and data transmission, as well as [a] high throughput technology test.” According to the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation, the mission was a success. 

Casting Doubt about the Mystery Satellite Payload

The issue comes from independent analysts who point out China’s failure to disclose the satellite’s owner(s) or user(s). China usually declares such information. Therefore, some analysts view that as evidence that there may be a military component to the mission as well. This satellite, called TSJ 5, is part of a series of satellites (the TJS series) that is believed to have military capabilities such as missile detection. 

Most experts expect China to launch over 40 satellites over the course of 2020. 

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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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