China has launched a Long March 3B-G2 (CZ-3B-G2) rocket from Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in China, carrying the Shiyan 10-02 satellite into what is thought to be a “Molniya” style highly inclined and eccentric orbit like its predecessor in the Shiyan 10 class, Shiyan 10-01, which eventually got to its final orbit after having to make a major inclination change. The launch was at 0443 GMT on 29 December 2022. The orbit achieved on this launch was 40096 x 188 km at 51.0 degrees inclination. It will be interesting to see if the Shiyan 10-02 makes a similar inclination change to 63.7 degrees inclination. The flight marked the 64th orbital attempt by China during 2022 and is thought to be its last of the year.
The military organisation, the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. (CASC), is believed to have been behind the launch and it confirmed its success. The satellite is thought to have a military use, although official statements from China have never indicated any kind of military use, only stating that it will be used for ““used for in-orbit verification of new space technologies, such as space environment monitoring.”
Satellites in Molniya style orbits such as this one are usually used to achieve communications with northern latitudes – areas where conventional geostationary communications satellites struggle to reach with their conventional signal footprints.