2nd Chinese Data-Relay Satellite Reaches Orbit

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PARIS — Launch services provider China Great Wall Industry Corp. on July 12 said its Long March 3C rocket successfully placed China’s second data-relay satellite into orbit July 11 following a launch from the Xichang Satellite Launch Center in southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

The Tianlian 1-02 spacecraft will join the Tianlian 1-01 data-relay satellite launched in April 2008 in monitoring flights of China’s manned Shenzhou capsule and China’s future space station. The first satellite operates from 77 degrees east longitude in geostationary orbit. It was not immediately clear what orbital slot would be used for Tianlian-1-02.

China is the third nation, after the United States and Russia, to have its own manned space program, and the third to have an operational data-relay service. The U.S. Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System and Russia’s Loutch satellites perform similar data-relay functions, also from geostationary orbit.

China Great Wall said the Tianlian system would be used for an in-orbit docking mission planned for later this year, as well as for relaying data from Chinese Earth observation satellites in lower orbit.

While Europe has no plans to develop its own manned space transport system to carry astronauts to and from orbit, it will use the data-relay spacecraft to speed reception of images from a fleet of Earth observation satellites.