An unexpected Chinese satellite launch took place from Xichang Satellite Launch Center at 0357 GMT, 26 July 2019. This mission saw a CALT (Chinese Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology) Long March 2C (CZ-2C) rocket orbit a triplet of YAOGAN 30-05 Earth Observation satellites into LEO. These YAOGAN units are suspected to have military Ocean surveillance roles however, officially their roles are to “conduct electromagnetic probes and other experiments”.

The Long March 2C rocket lifts off carrying the YAOGAN 30-05 triplet with its new grid fins located at the top of the first stage. Courtesy of YouTube

 

This launch demonstrated progress in Chinese launch vehicle technology. This rocket was equipped with grid fins on its first stage. These were testing procedures for more accurately controlling the drop-sites of spent-stages which have caused issues in the past during over-land launches.