China launched an experimental satellite for research and mapping on 3rd November, 2003, from the same pad where its first manned mission took off last month. The recoverable satellite, which will orbit for 18 days, went up at 3:20 p.m. Monday from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center, the official Xinhua News Agency said. It said the launch used a Long March 2-D carrier rocket.
The satellite was “functioning normally,” Xinhua said, quoting mission control. “It is technically much more advanced than the previous ones in terms of its performance,” Xinhua said. It said the device would be used to gather information to “help promote the country’s scientific and technological, economic and social development.”
The satellite was developed by the Shanghai Academy of Space Technology and the China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp. The launch is the 73rd by the country’s Long March carrier rockets since 1970, Xinhua said, and the 31st consecutive successful launch since October 1996. On Oct. 15, China launched its first manned space mission, sending astronaut Yang Liwei into orbit and bringing him back safely the following day with promises it would kick its space program into high gear. On Oct. 21, China launched another satellite developed in cooperation with Brazil. On Saturday, the government said it plans to launch a moon probe within five years.
“Space experts said the number of launches in such a short period is unprecedented in the country’s history, indicating the country’s progress in launch capability and development of launch vehicle and spacecraft,” Xinhua said.
The government said the satellite launch Monday afternoon was the first in the world to use a non-steel launch structure. The new tower, 300 feet high, is made of cement reinforced by steel bars. Such a tower allows enclosed testing workshops and other rooms to abut the launch site, “providing all-weather pre-launch testing in convenient and comfortable conditions for engineers and technicians,” Xinhua said. The tower, unlike its steel counterpart, is also capable of testing and launching different kinds of satellites. “Compared with the popular steel-structured launch tower at home and abroad, the new tower is cost-effective,” the agency said.