Yaogan Weixing
VRSS-1 satellite.jpg
Model of Yaogan 2
CountryChina People's Republic of China
OrganizationChina Academy of Space Technology (CAST)
PurposeReconnaissance
StatusActive
Program history
Duration2006–Present
First flight27 April 2006
Successes99
Failures1
Launch site(s)
Vehicle information
Launch vehicle(s)

Yaogan (simplified Chinese: 遥感卫星; traditional Chinese: 遙感衞星; pinyin: Yáogǎn Wèixīng; lit. 'Remote Sensing Satellite') is a broad term used by the People's Republic of China to refer to its military reconnaissance satellites. Although officially described as being used for scientific experiments, crop yield estimation, and disaster prevention, Yaogan satellites are largely known to primarily support the People's Liberation Army's Strategic Support Force (PLASSF), formerly the Aerospace Reconnaissance Bureau of the Second Department of the General Staff.[1][2] Yaogan satellites are the successor program to the Fanhui Shi Weixing (FSW) recoverable reconnaissance satellite program but, unlike its predecessor, includes a variety of classes utilizing various means of remote sensing such as optical reconnaissance, synthetic aperture radar (SAR), and electronic intelligence (ELINT) for maritime surveillance. Yaogan satellites have been launched from the Taiyuan Satellite Launch Center (TSLC) in China's northern Shanxi Province, the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Center (JSLC) in China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, and the Xichang Satellite Launch Center (XSLC) in Sichuan Province.[3]

Although individual Yaogan satellites are often referred to by their number (e.g. Yaogan-18), Chinese military reconnaissance satellites are typically categorized by their military Jianbing designation. Jianbing (Chinese: 尖兵) loosely translates to "point soldier", "vanguard", or "pioneer" and entered use in satellite designations with China's very first series of reconnaissance satellites, FSW-0, as the Jianbing-1 series. The first Yaogan satellite, Yaogan 1, is one of three Jianbing-5 (JB-5) series satellites following the final FSW-3 satellites of the Jianbing-4 (JB-4) series.

Classes

Synthetic aperture radar

Chinese SAR sensor development began in the late 1970s under the Electronic Research Institute of the China Academy of Sciences (CAS) resulting in the testing of the first airborne X-band mono-polarization SAR collection in 1981. By 1994, CAS had introduced its first operational, real-time airborne SAR system to monitor flooding and transmit collected data to ground stations.[4] Preliminary research and development of China's first-generation, space-based SAR system began sometime in the 1980s with development beginning in full in 1991. High-resolution, space-based SAR collection has been ambitiously pursued by the PLA for its potential contributions to all-weather targeting of naval forces in the Taiwan Strait.[4]

Jianbing-5 series satellites (abbreviated "JB-5") are China's first space-based synthetic aperture radar (SAR) satellites and the first satellites in the Yaogan program. The development and production of the Jianbing-5 series of satellites have been entirely funded by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) as the ability to penetrate the seemingly constant cloud cover present in the southern provinces of Tibet, Sichuan, Yunnan, Guangxi, Guandgong, and Hainan challenges traditional optical collection in those regions.[5] The PLA also believes that in a potential war SAR collection capabilities will be vital to information dominance by mapping terrain, identifying targets through cloud cover, rain, fog, and dust, and potentially monitoring enemy submarines in shallow waters or targets in subterranean facilities.[4] In May 1995, the finalized designs were approved and development began in earnest with the approval of the State Science & Technology Committee (SSTC) and Commission for Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense (COSTIND).[4] The China Academy of Science (CAS) Institute of Electronics built the SAR instruments onboard Jianbing-5 satellites, the craft itself designed by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST) who also develops the Long March 4B launch vehicle. Other developers involved in the project are the China Academy of Space Technology (CAST or 5th Space Academy) 501st and 504th Institutes, the China Electronics Technology Group Corporation (CETC)'s Nanjing Research Institute of Electronic Technology (known also as the 14th Institute), the Southwest Institute of Electronic Equipment (SWIEE or 29th Institute), and the Beijing University of Aeronautics & Astronautics (BUAA).[4] SAST is also the developer of the Feng Yun series of weather satellites.[4]

Jianbing-5 satellites are built by the Shanghai Academy of Spaceflight Technology (SAST) and launched from the Taiyun Satellite Launch Center (TSLC) and provide military analysts synthetic radar imagery purportedly at a resolution as high as 5 meters over the L-band (1–2 GHz).[6] JB-5 satellites have been confirmed to have an electronic motor-powered solar panel which can be expanded and contracted by the ground control station. Jianbing-5 class satellites have a reported mass of 2,700 kilograms, orbital inclination of approximately 97° in sun-synchronous orbit, and with two operational satellites enjoys a twice daily revisit rate at a 45° viewing angle.[5][7] Between April 2006 and August 2010, China launched three Jianbing-5 SAR satellites, the last two of which remain in operation from Taiyuan SLC. Yaogan 1, launched in April 2006, reportedly broke up around 4 February 2010 almost four years after its launch.[6] Due to the small number of pieces and low orbital speeds, the breakup was likely due to an internal explosion, not a high-speed collision.[8]

Yaogan 29, launched in November 2015 into a similar orbit, appears to be the modernized successor to the Jianbing-5 series of SAR satellites.[5]

The Jianbing-7 class of Yaogan satellites, with military designations beginning with "JB-7", are Chinese military radar reconnaissance satellites built by SAST with an orbital period of 97 minutes and a side-looking radar system designed by the Institute of Electronics, Chinese Academy of Sciences. As of July 2022, China has launched four Jianbing-7 radar satellites with the first launched in April 2009 and the latest in November 2014 with a mass of 1,200 kilograms (2,600 pounds) from Taiyuan SLC.[7][9] The third satellite of the Jianbing-7 class, launched in October 2013, had its orbit lowered from April to July 2020 and consequently underwent an uncontrolled decay reentering the atmosphere in 2021.[10]

Although the Jianbing designation is still unknown for latest class of SAR reconnaissance satellites, China has launched three satellites of a modernized successor class to the Jianbing-5 and Jianbing-7 classes of SAR reconnaissance satellites. This class uses the same orbit as the Jianbing-5 class but likely has a different design according to published illustrations.[11] The second satellite of this class, Yaogan 33, failed to reach orbit in May 2019. Its likely replacement, Yaogan 33R, was launched a year and a half later but used different launch site (Jiuquan instead of Taiyuan) and into a higher orbit (682 km × 686 km).[11]

Electro-optical

The Jianbing-6 class of Yaogan satellites, with military designations beginning with "JB-6", provides the Chinese military optical imaging capabilities to compliment the Jianbing-5 class's SAR reconnaissance capabilities.[12] It has been reported that satellites of the Jianbing-6 class have a resolution of 0.8 meters.[6] Jianbing-6 satellites were developed by CAST based on the CAST2000 satellites bus originally developed by the China SpaceSat Company Ltd. Jianbing-6 satellites image the Earth with a spatial resolution of approximately 1.5 meters and transmit them via X-band receiving telemetry, tracking, and command signals over the S-band. As of July 2022, China individually launched six Yaogan satellites of the Jianbing-6 class into low Earth orbit (LEO) with the first satellite launched in May 2006 and the latest in May 2016.[7] The Bolivian Agency for Space Activities signed a US$140 million deal with China Great Wall Industries Co. Ltd. to launch the Venezuelan Remote-Sensing Satellite 1 (VRSS-1) in May 2011 marking China's first export of a reconnaissance satellite. VRSS-1 was based on the design of Jianbing-6 satellites and was launched on 29 September 2012 from Jiuquan SLC.[7]

The Jianbing-9 class of Yaogan satellites, with military designations beginning with "JB-9" provides the Chinese military with optical imaging capabilities, likely as a successor to the Jianbing-6 class, thought it does orbit at a much higher altitude at 1,200 km indicating that satellites of this class are lower-resolution mapping and area surveillance satellites.[7][13][14] The optical payload of Yaogan satellites in the Jianbing-9 class was developed by the Changchun Institute of Optics, Fine Mechanics, and Physics.[14][15] China has launched five individual Yaogan satellites of the Jianbing-9 class with the first launched in December 2009 and the latest in August 2015 from Taiyuan SLC.[7]

The Jianbing-10 class of Yaogan satellites, with military designations beginning with "JB-10" provides the Chinese military with optical imaging capabilities.[16] Believed to also be based on the CAST2000 satellite bus, like those of the Jianbing-6 class, three Jianbing-10-class satellites built by CAST and carrying an optical imaging system from the Xian Institute of Optics and Precision Mechanics have been individually launched with the first launched in December 2008 and the reported last of the class in September 2014 from Taiyuan SLC.[16][17]

The Jianbing-11 class of Yaogan satellites, with military designations beginning with "JB-11" provides the Chinese military with optical imaging capabilities.[18] As of May 2022, China has launched two individually launched Yaogan satellites of the Jianbing-11 class with the first launched in May 2012 and the latest in November 2015.[18]

The Jianbing-12 class of Yaogan satellites, with military designations beginning with "JB-12", are military optical reconnaissance satellites.[19]

Electronic intelligence

In response to Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui's visit to the United States in 1995, the PRC initiated the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis conducting high-profile missile tests, amphibious landing drills, and troop staging in Fujian Province, across the strait from the island of Taiwan.[20] The United States government responded to the PRC's escalation by deploying the largest American show of force since the Vietnam War including sending two American carrier battle groups which effectively forced the PRC to deescalate.[21][22][23][24] Since then, the PLA has committed to design and field advanced anti-ship missile systems including the Dong Feng 21 and has deployed nearly sixty maritime surveillance satellites using electronic intelligence (ELINT) to locate, identify, and track adversarial vessels to support targeting.[25]

The Jianbing-8 class of Yaogan satellites, with military designations beginning with "JB-8", consist of one primary satellite and two sub-satellites launched in triplets. These satellites reportedly perform an ocean or naval surveillance mission similar to those of the United States' Naval Ocean Surveillance System (NOSS or PARCAE) despite the Chinese state-media's insistence they were designed to "conduct electromagnetic environmental monitoring and related technology tests".[26] The triplet groups likely fly in a loose formation to locate radio emitters using the difference in time of arrival of radio signals at the different satellites. Jianbing-8 satellites are based on the CAST2000 satellites bus and have a mass of 200 kilograms (440 pounds) and an orbital period of 107.10 minutes in LEO.[6][27][28] As of May 2022, there have been nine launches of Jianbing-8 triplets (twenty-seven total satellites) from Jiuquan SLC with the first triplet launching in March 2010 and the latest in March 2021.

The CX-5 or Chuangxin-5 (simplified Chinese: 创新; traditional Chinese: 創新; pinyin: Chuàngxīn; lit. 'Innovation') class of satellites, the only known Yaogan satellites to have been launched at Xichang SLC, are still largely shrouded in classification and their purpose is only speculated to be ELINT by nature of their triplet launches, similar to satellites of the Jianbing-8 class.

Satellites

Name Military
designation
Launch Function Orbital Apsis Inclination SCN COSPAR
designator
Contractor Launch site Launcher Status
Yaogan 1 JB-5-1 27 April 2006 SAR 635 km × 637 km 97.9° 29092 2006-015A SAST TSLC Long March 4B Decayed
Yaogan 2 JB-6-1 25 May 2007 EO 639 km × 663 km 97.9° 31490 2007-019A CAST JSLC Long March 2D Operational
Yaogan 3 JB-5-2 12 November 2007 SAR 635 km × 637 km 97.8° 32289 2007-055A SAST TSLC Long March 4C Operational
Yaogan 4 JB-6-2 1 December 2008 EO 642 km × 660 km 97.9° 33446 2008-061A CAST JSLC Long March 2D Operational
Yaogan 5 JB-10-1 15 December 2008 Optical 494 km × 501 km 97.3° 33456 2008-064A CAST TSLC Long March 4B Decayed
Yaogan 6 JB-7-1 22 April 2009 SAR 518 km × 519 km 97.6° 34839 2009-021A SAST TSLC Long March 2C Operational
Yaogan 7 JB-6-3 9 December 2009 EO 630 km × 666 km 97.8° 36110 2009-069A CAST JSLC Long March 2D Operational
Yaogan 8 JB-9-1 15 December 2009 Optical 1200 km × 1212 km 100.5° 36121 2009-072A SAST TSLC Long March 4C Operational
Yaogan 9A JB-8-1A 5 March 2010 ELINT 1089 km × 1107 km 63.4° 36413 2010-009A CAST JSLC Long March 4C Operational
Yaogan 9B JB-8-1B 36414 2010-009B Operational
Yaogan 9C JB-8-1C 36415 2010-009C Operational
Yaogan 10 JB-5-3 10 August 2010 SAR 629 km × 627 km 97.8° 36834 2010-038A SAST TSLC Long March 4C Operational
Yaogan 11 JB-6-4 22 September 2010 EO 670 km × 625 km 98.0° 37165 2010-047A CAST JSLC Long March 2D Operational
Yaogan 12 JB-10-2 9 November 2011 EO 479 km × 495 km 97.3° 37875 2011-066B CAST TSLC Long March 4B Operational
Yaogan 13 JB-7-2 30 November 2011 SAR 502 km × 504 km 97.4° 37941 2011-072A SAST TSLC Long March 2C Operational
Yaogan 14 JB-11-1 10 May 2012 EO 471 km × 474 km 97.3° 38257 2012-021A CAST TSLC Long March 4B Operational
Yaogan 15 JB-9-2 29 May 2012 EO 1198 km × 1204 km 100.2° 38354 2012-029A SAST TSLC Long March 4C Operational
Yaogan 16A JB-8-2A 25 November 2012 ELINT 1085 km × 1096 km 63.4° 39011 2012-066A CAST JSLC Long March 4C Operational
Yaogan 16B JB-8-2B 39012 2012-066B Operational
Yaogan 16C JB-8-2C 39013 2012-066C Operational
Yaogan 17A JB-8-3A 1 September 2013 ELINT 1060 km × 1119 km 63.4° 39239 2013-046A SAST JSLC Long March 4C Operational
Yaogan 17B JB-8-3B 39240 2013-046B Operational
Yaogan 17C JB-8-3C 39241 2013-046C Operational
Yaogan 18 JB-7-3 29 October 2013 SAR 509 km × 514 km 97.5° 39363 2013-059A SAST TSLC Long March 2C Decayed
Yaogan 19 JB-9-3 20 November 2013 EO 1119 km × 1204 km 100.4° 39410 2013-065A SAST TSLC Long March 4C Operational
Yaogan 20A JB-8-4A 9 August 2014 ELINT 1086 km × 1092 km 63.4° 40109 2014-047A CAST JSLC Long March 4C Operational
Yaogan 20B JB-8-4B 40110 2014-047B Operational
Yaogan 20C JB-8-4C 40111 2014-047C Operational
Yaogan 21 JB-10-3 8 September 2014 EO 481 km × 492 km 97.4° 40143 2014-053A CAST TSLC Long March 4B Operational
Yaogan 22 JB-9-4 20 October 2014 EO 1198 km × 1207 km 100.3° 40275 2014-063A SAST TSLC Long March 4C Operational
Yaogan 23 JB-7-4 14 November 2014 SAR 511 km × 513 km 97.3° 40305 014-071A SAST TSLC Long March 2C Operational
Yaogan 24 JB 6-5 20 November 2014 EO 629 km × 654 km 97.9° 40310 2014-072A CAST JSLC Long March 2D Operational
Yaogan 25A JB-8-5A 10 December 2014 ELINT 1091 km × 1098 km 63.4° 40338 2014-080A CAST JSLC Long March 4C Operational
Yaogan 25B JB-8-5B 40339 2014-080B Operational
Yaogan 25C JB-8-5C 40340 2014-080C Operational
Yaogan 26 JB-12-1 27 December 2014 EO 482 km × 488 km 97.4° 40362 2014-088A CAST TSLC Long March 4B Operational
Yaogan 27 JB-9-5 27 August 2015 EO 1201 km × 1214 km 100.4° 40878 2015-040A SAST TSLC Long March 4C Operational
Yaogan 28 JB-11-2 8 November 2015 EO 476 km × 490 km 97.3° 41026 2015-064A CAST TSLC Long March 4B Operational
Yaogan 29 JB-?-1 26 November 2015 SAR 635 km × 636 km 97.9° 41038 2015-069A SAST TSLC Long March 4C Operational
Yaogan 30 JB-6-6 15 May 2016 EO 634 km × 664 km 98.0° 41473 2016-029A CAST JSLC Long March 2D Operational
Yaogan 30-1A CX-5 29 September 2017 ELINT 602 km × 611 km 35.0° 42945 2017-058A CAST XSLC Long March 2C Operational
Yaogan 30-1B CX-5 42946 2017-058B Operational
Yaogan 30-1C CX-5 42947 2017-058C Operational
Yaogan 30-2A CX-5 24 November 2017 ELINT 603 km × 610 km 35.0° 43028 2017-075A CAST XSLC Long March 2D Operational
Yaogan 30-2B CX-5 43029 2017-075B Operational
Yaogan 30-2C CX-5 43030 2017-075C Operational
Yaogan 30-3A CX-5 25 December 2017 ELINT 602 km × 610 km 35.0° 43081 2017-085A CAST XSLC Long March 2C Operational
Yaogan 30-3B CX-5 43082 2017-085B Operational
Yaogan 30-3C CX-5 43083 2017-085C Operational
Yaogan 30-4A CX-5 25 January 2018 ELINT 602 km × 610 km 35.0° 43170 2018-011A CAST XSLC Long March 2C Operational
Yaogan 30-4B CX-5 43171 2018-011B Operational
Yaogan 30-4C CX-5 43172 2018-011C Operational
Yaogan 31A JB-8 6A 10 April 2018 ELINT 1085 km × 1110 km 63.4° 43275 2018-034A CAST JSLC Long March 4C Operational
Yaogan 31B JB-8 6B 43276 2018-034B Operational
Yaogan 31C JB-8 6C 43277 2018-034C Operational
Yaogan 32A Unknown 9 October 2018 EO 701 km × 703 km 98.2° 43642 2018-077A CAST JSLC Long March 2C/YZ-1S Operational
Yaogan 32B Unknown 43643 2018-077B Operational
Yaogan 33 JB-?-2 23 May 2019 SAR (Launch Failure) Unknown TSLC Long March 4C Failed
Yaogan 30-5A CX-5 25 July 2019 ELINT 602 km × 609 km 35.0° 44449 2019-045A CAST XSLC Long March 2C Operational
Yaogan 30-5B CX-5 44450 2019-045B Operational
Yaogan 30-5C CX-5 44451 2019-045C Operational
Yaogan 30-6A CX-5 24 March 2020 ELINT 602 km × 609 km 35.0° 45460 2020-021A CAST XSLC Long March 2C Operational
Yaogan 30-6B CX-5 45461 2020-021B Operational
Yaogan 30-6C CX-5 45462 2020-021C Operational
Yaogan 30-7A CX-5 26 October 2020 ELINT 595 km × 612 km 35.0° 45807 2020-076A CAST XSLC Long March 2C Operational
Yaogan 30-7B CX-5 45808 2020-076B Operational
Yaogan 30-7C CX-5 45809 2020-076C Operational
Yaogan 33R JB-?-3 27 December 2020 SAR 683 km × 686 km 98.3° 47302 2020-103A CAST JSLC Long March 4C Operational
Yaogan 31D JB-8 6D 29 January 2021 ELINT 1090 km × 1098 km 63.4° 47532 2021-007A CAST JSLC Long March 4C Operational
Yaogan 31E JB-8 6E 47533 2021-007B Operational
Yaogan 31F JB-8 6F 47534 2021-007C Operational
Yaogan 31G JB-8 6G 24 February 2021 ELINT 1090 km × 1100 km 63.4° 47691 2021-014A CAST JSLC Long March 4C Operational
Yaogan 31H JB-8 6H 47692 2021-014B Operational
Yaogan 31J JB-8 6J 47693 2021-014C Operational
Yaogan 31K JB-8 6K 13 March 2021 ELINT 1090 km × 1098 km 63.4° 47855 2021-020B CAST JSLC Long March 4C Operational
Yaogan 31L JB-8 6L 47855 2021-020C Operational
Yaogan 31M JB-8 6M 47857 2021-020D Operational
Yaogan 34 Unknown 30 April 2021 EO 1083 km × 1105 km Unknown 48340 2021-037A SAST JSLC Long March 4C Operational
Yaogan 30-8A CX-5 6 May 2021 ELINT 591 km × 602 km 35.0° 48423 2021-039A CAST XSLC Long March 2C Operational
Yaogan 30-8B CX-5 48424 2021-039B Operational
Yaogan 30-8C CX-5 48425 2021-039C Operational
Yaogan 30-9A CX-5 18 June 2021 ELINT 591 km × 602 km 35.0° 48860 2021-055A CAST XSLC Long March 2C Operational
Yaogan 30-9B CX-5 48861 2021-055B Operational
Yaogan 30-9C CX-5 48863 2021-055D Operational
Yaogan 30-10A CX-5 19 July 2021 ELINT 591 km × 602 km 35.0° 49026 2021-065A CAST XSLC Long March 2C Operational
Yaogan 30-10B CX-5 49027 2021-065B Operational
Yaogan 30-10C CX-5 49028 2021-065C Operational
Yaogan 32-2A Unknown 3 November 2021 SIGINT 689 km × 704 km 98.27° 49383 2021-099A Unknown JSLC Long March 2C/YZ-1S Operational
Yaogan 32-2B Unknown 49384 2021-099B Operational
Yaogan 35A Unknown 6 November 2021 Unknown Unknown Unknown 49389 2021-101A CAST
SAST
XSLC Long March 2D Operational
Yaogan 35B Unknown 49390 2021-101B Operational
Yaogan 35C Unknown 49391 2021-101C Operational
Yaogan 34-2 Unknown 17 March 2022 EO 1083 km × 1105 km 63.38° 52084 2022-027A SAST JSLC Long March 4C Operational
Yaogan 35 02-A Unknown 23 June 2022 ELINT 499 km × 508 km 35.0° 52907 2022-068A CAST
SAST
XSLC Long March 2D Operational
Yaogan 35 02-B Unknown 498 km × 509 km 35.0° 52908 2022-068B Operational
Yaogan 35 02-C Unknown 496 km × 506 km 35.0° 52909 2022-068C Operational
Yaogan 35 03-A Unknown 29 July 2022 Unknown 499 km × 508.6 km 35.0° 53316 2022-088A CAST
SAST
XSLC Long March 2D Operational
Yaogan 35 03-B Unknown 496.6 km × 511.2 km 35.0° 53317 2022-088B Operational
Yaogan 35 03-C Unknown 497.5 km × 510.4 km 35.0° 53318 2022-088C Operational
Table data sourced from previously cited references, "CalSky". calsky.com. CalSky. Retrieved 9 November 2016. and "Real Time Satellite Tracking". n2yo.com. N2YO. Retrieved 9 November 2016."Yaogan 30-01, ..., 30-07 (CX 5)". Gunter's Space Page. 30 May 2020. Retrieved 14 October 2020.

See also

References

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