HELSINKI — China launched the Haiyang-1D ocean observation satellite Wednesday with the country’s 13th orbital launch of 2020.

The two-stage hypergolic Long March 2C lifted off at 4:31 p.m. Eastern from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center, north China. Indication of the imminent launch attempt came from airspace closure notices days ahead of launch.

The first sign that launch had occurred came just under half an hour after liftoff when launch success was confirmed (Chinese) by the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp., the main contractor for the country’s space programs.

Haiyang-1D is based on a CAST2000 small satellite platform and is stated to have a mass of around 442 kilograms at liftoff. 

Instruments include a China Ocean Colour and Temperature Scanner, Coastal Zone Imager and an ultraviolet imager. The satellite also includes automatic identification system payload for vessel monitoring.

China’s National Satellite Ocean Application Service, the Haiyang satellites operator, states that Haiyang-1D will provide data for global ocean color and water temperature monitoring.

It will also provide data services for China’s offshore sea areas and islands, coastal zone resource and environmental surveys, marine disaster prevention and mitigation, and other uses.

The satellite will form China’s first maritime civilian satellite constellation along with the Haiyang-1C satellite which launched in 2018. Together they will conduct networking observations in the morning and afternoon, greatly improving the global coverage of aquatic satellites, according to NSOAS. 

Haiyang-1D will have an equatorial crossing time of 1 p.m. ascending, while Haiyang-1C has an ECT of 10:30 a.m. descending, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

Haiyang-1D is the sixth ocean observation in the Haiyang series launched by China. Additionally the Chinese-French Oceanography Satellite (CFOSAT) launched in October 2018.

The China Academy of Space Technology (CAST) developed the Haiyang satellites. CAST is the major satellite and spacecraft maker under CASC. Another CASC subsidiary, the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT), provided the launcher. 

Chinese launch plans

Wednesday’s mission is the first to be launched from Taiyuan since mid-January. It is unclear what impact, if any, the COVID-19 outbreak had on operations at the center.

A previous Long March 2C launch in July 2019 saw the introduction of grid fins to the launch vehicle. CASC published images of the launch which indicate no further trial was conducted Wednesday.

The Long March 2C launched was the 13th orbital launch by China in 2020, including two failures. CASC is aiming to launch more than 40 times this year according to a January statement.

Indications of the causes of two failures, in May 2019 and April this year, have appeared in a tender (Chinese) for the insurance of a future government remote sensing satellite launch. 

The Xichang Satellite Launch Center is currently gearing up to launch a 55th Beidou navigation and positioning satellite which will see the system become fully operational.

Andrew Jones covers China's space industry for GBTIMES and SpaceNews. He is based in Helsinki, Finland.