China’s launch of two commercial remote sensing satellites went awry on Wednesday, leaving the spacecraft in the wrong orbit.
The pair of SuperView-1 satellites lifted off aboard a Long March 2D from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center bound for an orbit of 500 km.
Space-Track.org data show four objects in elliptical orbits with apogees of 524 km (325.6 miles) and perigees ranging from 212 to 216 km (131.7 to 134.2 miles). One of the other objects was a 2U amateur radio CubeSat.
Unless the perigees of the SuperView-1 satellites can be raised using on-board propellant, it might only be months before they re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere and burn up.
The satellites are part of a constellation of remote sensing spacecraft being launched by the Beijing Space View Technology Co., Ltd. The company plans to launch two more SuperView-1 spacecraft in 2017 and additional ones through 2022.
It was second launch mishap this year for China’s space program. In August, a Long March 3C booster failed to orbit the Gaofen-10 remote sensing satellite after launch from the Taiyuan spaceport.
The inaugural flight of China’s new Long March 7 rocket next month will be the first launch from the nation’s newest spaceport.
Long March 7 will carry a prototype re-entry capsule for China’s next-generation human spacecraft when it lifts off from the Wenchang Satellite Launch Center on June 26.
Located on Hainan Island, Wenchang is China’s first orbital launch site located on the coastline. The Jiuquan, Taiyuan and Xichang launch facilities are all situated inland.
Wenchang will be the primary launch site for Long March 7 and Long March 5 rockets. Wenchang is located 19 degrees above the equator, which will make it easier for China to launch satellites into equatorial orbit.