China launched what it characterized as a scientific sounding rocket May 13 on a mission that the U.S. Air Force said followed a trajectory similar to those used in launches of geostationary orbiting satellites.
“We detected a launch on May 13 from within China,” Lt. Col. Monica Matoush, a Pentagon spokeswoman, wrote in an email May 16. “The launch appeared to be on a ballistic trajectory nearly to geosynchronous Earth orbit. We tracked several objects during the flight but did not observe the insertion of any objects into orbit and no objects associated with this launch remain in space. Based upon observations, we assess that the objects reentered the atmosphere above the Indian Ocean. We defer any further questions to the government of China.”
According to press release from the Chinese Academy of the Sciences’ National Space Science Center, the sounding rocket was launched from Xichang Satellite Launch Center and carried payloads for studying the high-energy particles in the upper atmosphere and near-Earth space.