Yesterday, slightly before midnight China launched from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center their Long March 11 rocket with scientific satellite XPNAV-1. Launch was conducted 48 hours before planned date; along with XPNAV-1 three different satellites were delivered to orbit.
It was 239th mission of rocket from Long March Family – after impressive and full of drama maiden flight of Long March 5 this mission seems to be much more ordinary. Long March 11 performed flawlessly during its second mission and proved that solid fueled launch vehicles could be more useful for missions were low mass payload is delivered to lower orbits.
Launch was performed at 23:42 GMT from mobile platform at Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center. Three satellites delivered to orbit by Long March 11 were: XPNAV-1, Xiaoxiang-1, Lishui-1, CAS-2T. Of course in this group most important was XPNAV-1 satellite; weighing 240 kg this experimental spacecraft will help is future utilization of signals emitted by Pulsars for precision timekeeping necessary for space navigation systems and navigational satellites operating under systems like Beidou or GPS. These signals are emitted periodically with accuracy under fraction of millisecond as X ray impulses and can be spotted with special devices. XPNAV-1 will try to gather data on Pulsars which are generating such impulses. Such map of Pulsars which are generating X ray impulses will be very useful for creating in future deep space navigation systems not limited by receiving signals from Earth (which would be received with delay what would result in less precise estimation of the position). Satellite, just as rest of spacecrafts, was designed to operate from SSO orbit and according to Xinhua news agency it already confirmed reaching correct orbit. Next satellite, which reached orbit as piggyback payload of XPNAV-1 was Xiaoxiang-1. It was designed and manufactured by Changsha Gaoxinqu Tianyi Research Institute in Hunan. It is 6U sized Cubesat with weight of 8 kg and will serve for testing new stabilization system for cameras. CAS-2T is amateur radio satellite designed and operated by CAMSAT (non-profit organization promoting development of amateur satellites in China). It is equipped with FM transponder operating with two frequencies: 145.925 MHz (uplink) and 435.615 MHz (downlink) and single telemetry beacon transmitting on 435.710 MHz. It will remain on orbit for 30 days. Last satellite is probably (according to Nasaspaceflight) Lishui-1 remote sensing satellite designed by Zhejiang LiTong Electronic Technology Co., Ltd. It is beginning of constellation of 80-12- satellites available commercially for Chinese companies and offering remote sensing services.
Long March 11 is solid fueled small launch vehicle designed and manufactured by China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology (CALT). Its design is probably based on DF-31 ICBM. First flight was conducted from Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center on September 25, 2015. Rocket is based on four stages with 20.8 m of length has diameter of 2 m and mass of 58 t. It is able to reach SSO orbit with maximal payload of 350 kg under fairing with diameter of 1.6 m.
UPDATE 11/11/2016: Launch will be followed by mission of Long MArch 2D with Yunhai-1 satellite on atop. Mission is planned for 11th November 2016.